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Commentary Search

June Commander's Corner

  • Published
  • By Col. Nicholas Gentile, Jr.
  • 169th Fighter Wing

“For a People who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security”, Thomas Jefferson’s 8th (and last) Annual Message to Congress, 1808.

It was a little over two years ago that I stood before you and laid out my priorities, direction and charge for the wing. You might recall my priorities, “God, Family, primary job, the Guard, and yourself--not always in that order.” It is hard to believe that two years has gone by so quickly. Although we have accomplished much, we have endured through much together also, and are a stronger, more prepared and more resilient wing than when I stood before you over two years ago. I cannot recap all of our extraordinary accomplishments, but the Swamp Fox performance shows we are still at the “Tip of the Spear,” and ready when our state and nation call us into action. The Swamp Fox performed exceptionally well in our deployment to Korea, bested the regular Air Force squadrons during their own exercises, put on a world-class airshow at McEntire, excelled in our ACC IG CAPSTONE quadrennial inspection, repeated superior results during NORAD/1AF IGs’ FAFE and AFOA inspections, exercised 24/7 conducting a simultaneous Red Flag/Green Flag -- an ACC First, deployed and exercised in Colombia with our State Partnership Program (SPP) partners, fought through and performed our DOMOPS tasks brilliantly in one hurricane and hurrievac’d for another (generating 21 jets in 48 hours), continued to modernize our aircraft, base, surfaces, and structures; tore down the wing headquarters building and tore apart Base Ops/OG with nine other buildings to follow; deployed Airmen and Soldiers in support of Puerto Rico, successfully completed our first ever Agile Combat Support (ACS) deployment of 154 Airmen across the wing for six months each, all while maintaining our homeland defense mission, spinning up for another desert deployment and accomplishing the Full-Spectrum Readiness (FSR) requirements in less than three months becoming the first fighter wing “on point” for the CSAF’s directive. Well done Swamp Fox!


All this has not occurred without some significant challenges that have forced us to reorder and refocus our efforts and our Airmen to reprioritize what and how we have been moving the wing forward. This introspection and resilience in the face of some of the most challenging issues any wing has faced in decades, has made the Swamp Fox stronger, better prepared, more lethal and more resilient. It is true that steel can be strengthened in fire. Steel will become stronger, more durable and more lethal when placed into “the fire” and properly “heated, shaped and cooled.” The Swamp Fox has been tested in a similar manner. We have seen tragedy, accidents, mishaps and loss of some of our family. But, we have responded in amazing fashion, rallying together, bonding and refocusing ourselves to this “Business of Arms” and ensuring the Swamp Fox legacy will continue for decades (and hopefully centuries) to come. 

We are a better wing for how we have learned, handled and grown from these challenges, and much like hardened steel, are now stronger and more lethal. I have been comforted to watch the way our Airmen have come together in the face of adversity, and rallied around one another, protecting and caring for each other and ensuring the mission succeeded. This is what sets the 169th Fighter Wing apart…this spirit of “never giving up,” and constantly striving to improve our operation, team and support for one another. I am humbled and honored to have been a part of our successes and shoulder the burden for our failures, yet I know we are a better wing for all of it.    

So, why the quote from the famous deceased Founding Father in the beginning of my farewell? Thomas Jefferson, one of our most important presidents, was addressing his last annual joint session of Congress in 1808, known today as the State of the Union, and wanted to share his most significant thoughts and actions from his eight years in office, while updating the nation on the progress of this young and growing republic. It is interesting that he took the time to remind the nation that a well-organized and armed militia, is the nation’s best security. I completely agree. As Guardsmen, we embrace our homeland defense mission with particular zeal. Whether it is our Airmen and base sitting alert every night, literally ready to answer our nations call, or our ability to place Airmen and equipment anywhere in the state or nation to aid in disaster response, the Swamp Fox stands ready to answer our “militia call” while maintaining our readiness to answer our nation’s call at home or abroad.

Our committed drill-status guardsmen, technicians, AGRs, state employees and active associates combine to make our Swamp Fox team the best prepared, most diverse, effective, resilient and lethal fighter wing in the DOD. Never forget your special trust with your state and nation, and the thousands of Swamp Fox that have gone before us that built this amazing organization. We are thankful every day for their efforts and successes, but it is your turn to build our future; whether its F-16CJ’s, F-35 or Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter, Cyber or Space, Red Horse or Engineering and Installation (E&I0), the future of the 4,100 Guardsmen and 1,430 Airmen at McEntire is bright and promising! There is no limit to what you can accomplish and what successes you will share if you work together, take care of each other and remain focused and dedicated to our principles and mission.

To my fellow Swamp Fox Airmen, thank-you for your outstanding support, your dedication to duty, your faith in an ideal that we are different, stronger and more resilient, and the constant pursuit of excellence. You, the Swamp Fox Airman, embody the best ideals and dedication of both an Air Force Airman and a South Carolina Guardsman and I am proud to be counted as one of you!

I love being a Swamp Fox and truly treasure the time I spent here at McEntire over these last 19 years.  Although this place is special and amazing, it is you, the Swamp Fox Airmen, that I will truly miss. The leadership team I leave behind is the sharpest, smartest, and best prepared team I have ever seen. They are ready to take the Swamp Fox to new heights and performances and I know you will deliver for them as you did for me and countless commanders before me. Keep your priorities clear, take care of your family and one another, keep the mission at the forefront of your dedication to duty and pursuit of excellence, and get right back up when you “stumble,” because there is no better team than the superior Airmen of the 169th Fighter Wing and no one I would rather go to war with or protect my family with!  You will always have my support, dedication, and faith!

Go get ‘em Swamp Fox!  Semper Primus!