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Commander looks back at last year

Airman stands in front of aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Merrill, 919th Special Operations Wing commander, stands in front of a C-145 Combat Coyote at Duke Field, Florida, May 21,2020. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dan Maffett)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. --

Citizen Air Commandos,

This past weekend, my social media feeds were filled with pictures from the 919th Special Operations Wing change of command last year. As I looked over those pictures I thought to myself, “Where has the time gone?” It seems like only weeks ago that my family and I were fortunate enough to become a part of this amazing wing. 

Over the last year we have seen our share of challenges. We started with unprecedented fiscal constraints. We had to find new and innovative ways to accomplish the mission, ensuring we were good stewards of the resources we were given. That innovation was just a warm-up for operating under the restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Social unrest throughout the nation brought us together to have uncomfortable conversations and recognize the strength we have in our diversity.

Despite these challenges, I have watched each and every one of you work together to get the mission done. You have not skipped a beat! I could write pages on your accomplishments over the past year. Let me just mention a few. The Wing was recognized as the best Wing in 10th Air Force in May with the Power and Vigilance award, presented by the Fort Worth AirPower Council. We flew over 25,834 total hours and over 11,630 combat hours. We supported 179 kinetic strikes with PED, and our combat aviation advisors engaged with six partner nations. Together, we trained over 2,700 people. Our maintenance group was awarded the General Mark Welsh One Air Force Award for excellence in total force integration. The maintenance group also generated over 17,000 flying hours across five areas of responsibility while sustaining over a 90% Mission Capable rate. Seven of our security forces members received Air Force Achievement medals for their support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, and our medical squadron continues to keep our Airmen safe and healthy in the COVID environment while simultaneously ensuring they are deployment ready. There are many more things happening behind the scenes to keep our Nation’s enemies at bay, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Balancing family, civilian jobs, and your military careers is a challenge in itself. Although we work as a part time force, we are full-time Airmen. I am incredibly impressed by the resilience and hard work each and every one of you put in every day.

I have no doubt that together with our mission partners, we will do great things over the next year. We will continue to adjust to operating in a COVID-19 environment while attacking our priorities of Readiness, Innovation, Partnership, and Development. We will remain an agile, combat ready force always ready to answer our nation’s call by providing operational forces, strategic depth, and surge capacity – all at an incredible value to the taxpayer.

Next summer marks the 50th Anniversary of the 919th SOW. As we build up our plans to commemorate this milestone, I am excited to see what great achievements we can add to the 919th SOW legacy through our 49th year.

I am honored to serve with each and every one of you. Thank you, and your families, for all you do!