By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze, 128th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published January 08, 2012
MILWAUKEE -- As the 128th Air Refueling Wing continues to look forward to 2012 and beyond, it is important to look back. In 2011, Wing members diligently accomplished their missions at home and overseas, and they had an active role in the local community.
Early in the year, the 128th Security Forces Squadron and several individual Airmen deployed for up to seven months to Southwest Asia. During the summer, Wing members deployed for up to four months to Western Europe to provide air refueling capabilities and assistance to U.S. forces. Amid the deployments, temporary duty assignments, and monthly unit training assemblies, the 128th Air Refueling Wing added approximately 100 Airmen to the base while about 90 Airmen separated or retired.
In Milwaukee, the Wing supported its mission and community. The 2011 Armed Forces Week took place in May, and it recognized the contributions of civilian employers, local business leaders, and military professionals. Three months later, the Wing hosted the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during the 2011 Milwaukee Air and Water Show in August as part of the aerial demonstration team's 58th season. Starting in October, members of the 128th Air Refueling Wing contributed to the Combined Federal Campaign; while this year's goal for the CFC was not met--the Wing raised $37,782 while the goal was $42,600--the contributions and donations went to a variety of charities and organizations, including the 128th Airmen and Family Aid Program, which received $12,704 to support Airmen during their endeavors.
"I think the Wing did a really good job with people coming and going on deployments," said Chief Master Sgt. Patti Winter-Schmidt, the 128 ARW component maintenance flight superintendent and on-base point of contact for the CFC. "Thank you very much to the people who contributed, and the southeastern Wisconsin community is appreciative, too."
This past year also held several inspections of on-base groups, and the most notable inspection involved the 128th Medical Group. Whereas many units receive unsatisfactory or marginal reviews, according to Col. Eileen Panacek, commander of the medical group, the 128th Medical Group received an 'Excellent' rating from Air Force inspectors general.
Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Marrero, superintendent of the medical group, said, with regard to the inspection's rating, "It definitely helped increase morale and relief." He further said the 128th Medical Group is scheduled to do a staff assistance visit with the 133rd Airlift Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard. He explained that a staff assistance visit to another base allows Milwaukee's Airmen to help other installations with their inspections.
In May, 65 Airmen and family members of the 128th Air Refueling Wing volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to renovate four houses on North First Street, Milwaukee. According to 1st Lt. Gregory Damask, the logistics readiness officer for the 128th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Wing members are planning to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in 2012, and the number of Airmen and family members may well exceed last year's numbers.
In November, we did an article about Robb Simcock, the 128th Air Refueling Wing's director of psychological health. Looking back, Simcock says the interim months were the culmination of many events.
"I've been used by leadership for consultations, manager-employee relations briefings, and visits to my office," Simcock said. He added that his office sees increased activity due to more awareness of who he is and what he does. For the coming year, Simcock offers the following advice: "Be aware of the services here on base--psychological health, chaplains, Airmen and Family Readiness Program--and view getting help not as a weakness but as a strength because you're doing something about your situation."
In December, the Wing recognized over 130 Airmen at a Hometown Hero Salute Campaign during the month's Unit Training Assembly. This was the second base-wide award recognition ceremony--the first was conducted in 2010--that formally awarded Airmen for their contributions during deployments that lasted at least 30 days.
While 2011 held many internal events, this year promises to have plenty of external events. Internally, the 128th Air Refueling Wing will experience a Unit Compliance Inspection this fall, which gauges and ensures the Wing's ability to conduct its varied missions. Externally, the Wing will have an active role during Armed Forces Week in May, and the Wing will also have a military display during the same month. In December, the Wing will host the 29th annual Flight to the North Pole. Throughout the year, several orientation flights will inform employers, media members, civic leaders, clergy members, legislative members, military spouses, and Wing newcomers regarding the missions and goals of Milwaukee's Airmen. Wing members will continue to deploy worldwide as part of the Air Expeditionary Force cycle.
The Air National Guard has been a part of the Milwaukee community since 1947, and this year will be another great integration of the 128th Air Refueling Wing's citizen-Airmen and the local and state communities.