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2014: ‘The year that was … fabulous’

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- With 2014 coming to a close, I wanted to look back over the year at our successes and the challenges we have faced as a team.

No one was sure what to expect this year, especially with the turbulence - and uncertainty - caused with the government shutdown, employee furloughs and sequestration issues of 2013.

Toss all that in the mix with the impending change-over of all the Group Commanders in the Wing, and it was shaping up to be a very challenging year. 

But never fear; Team Patrick-Cape was here!

Less than a week into 2014, we got off to a quick start with the perfect launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the THAICOM 6 satellite into orbit. 

This was just the beginning of 18 successful missions launched from the Eastern Range over the course of the year.

The payloads delivered into space ranged from new Global Positioning Satellites to Space Station resupply deliveries to classified National Reconnaissance Office missions - and more. 

Our launch year culminated with a spectacular Delta IV Heavy mission Dec. 5, 2014, which heaved the new Orion Deep Space Capsule onto its maiden flight around the Earth.

Lt. Col. "Tank" McClure's unit then led the Department of Defense Human Spaceflight Support team, which successfully recovered the Orion capsule about four-and-a-half hours after liftoff.

**Priority No. 1: 100% MISSION SUCCESS. Mission Accomplished --check the block on that one!

We selected Lt. Col. Laura Robinson and asked her to form the INNOVATE NOW Team to kick off The Year of Innovation, which was chartered to ignite innovation at the grass-root level in every corner of the Wing.

Laura and her hard-working team received more than 70 submittals from all our Groups -- and from all ranks of our Airmen and civilians workers in the Wing. 

With your ideas, we were able to save 3,000 man-hours and $100,000 per year. It still amazes me to this day.  It's what happens when those in-the-know get involved, and feel empowered to change things for the better.

I also want to highlight Master Sgt. Ted Byerly's team in the Airman Leadership School, which developed and implemented an Air Force first: incorporating iPads in their day-to-day curriculum. 

This brilliant idea saved the ALS $11,000 per year. And not only that, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody, upon receiving a briefing during a visit here, liked the idea so much that he is pushing it as the new Air Force standard. 

**Priority No. 2: IGNITE INNOVATION. You better believe it!

As a leadership team, we committed ourselves to deliberately investing in our greatest asset: our People.

We understand that for communication to be effective, it has to be a two-way street so we try our best to give all you an avenue to do just that.

This is one of the reasons we held two "Wingman University" sessions held in the Spring and Fall. These sessions were huge successes, with 3,100 personnel attending 46 different classes. 

And, once again, based on your overwhelmingly positive feedback, Wingman University was also briefed to the CMSAF as a best practice.

Team, I hope you know it goes without saying that we will continue to support our people and their families, deliberately develop leaders and demand a culture of respect in every corner, and every office in this Wing. You have my word on that.

** Priority No. 3: INVEST IN PEOPLE: Yes, and we're not done yet.

I can't thank you enough for all you have accomplished for this Wing, our Air Force and the United States of America this past year. I am truly humbled to have the privilege to be your commander.

So, as we get ready to tackle all the obstacles and hurdles we'll be sure to face in 2015, please remember something we talked about a few months ago.

Our No. 1 priority - "100% Mission Success" -- is more than a "bumper sticker" to this Wing and Team.  It's our way of life, and I'm supremely confident we'll continue to reach for the stars, while staying grounded in our work ethic.

And that's exactly why I keep reminding all of us to "STAY FOCUSED SHARKS!"