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Commitment, flexibility remain key to success

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When people say "the only constant is change," I don't always know for sure if they are specifically referring to the space and launch business, but it seems to fit these days.

Never before in my 20-plus years of experience as an Air Force officer have I seen an environment as dynamic as this one. From the changing economic conditions, to the impending end of the shuttle program and Delta II program, to the arrival of Space X's Falcon 9 and the future opportunities with SLC-36 and Space Florida, being able to adapt, to be flexible while keeping our eye on the mission - and maintaining that same level of commitment to excellence, is imperative to being successful.

Those two words - commitment and flexibility - define who we are as a Wing, who we are as Airmen, and who we are in our jobs. And as I am sure you well know, those two words were put to use - once again - earlier this week when the planned launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket on a classified National Reconnaissance Office mission was pushed back.

But in the launch world, like virtually everything else in our Air Force, team work ensures that we adapt to changes and execute successful launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

And I have every confidence we'll continue that record of success in the near and not-so-near future.

How will we do that? Glad you asked. We are constantly taking every necessary step to ensure our assets are ready to support - while at the same time working to identify those areas that need to be modernized.

We are continuing to increase the number of "rehearsals" prior to each and every launch. We are integrating crew exercises and academic sessions in preparation for each launch.

In addition, I have asked both our Launch and Operations Group commanders to examine - and then re-examine - their respective mission areas to ensure we are "planning for success" from a mission assurance perspective, which enhances our nation's assured access to space.

On the range side, I understand its fragility and am working with leadership to take every necessary step to ensure our assets are ready to support while at the same time working to identify those areas that need to be modernized.

While these are just some of the things we are doing, the bottom line is we will work within the current environment to ensure we succeed at our mission in the most safe, effective and efficient manner possible.

And in doing so, we will always be mindful of how much we, space professionals bring to the fight on the Global War on Terror. A point driven home to me last weekend, when I attended an emotional ceremony for a 920th Rescue Wing member who died on a medical mission to save a life.

America is fortunate to have people like Staff Sgt. Douglas Eccleston, who gave his life in December 2001 to try to save a life. Members of the 920th wing told me how much they rely on the systems that space provides, like GPS, to do their important missions, whether it be here in the United States or on the fields of battle across the globe.

We will never forget the sacrificies they make and will work to ensure the best systems get employed to help people like Sergeant Eccleston do what they do.

Again, thanks for all you do. We'll have plenty of chances to excel again this year.

Because, quite frankly, failure is just not an option. Too many people need us. Go Sharks!