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June Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Metzler, the 169th Maintenance Group Commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait July 14, 2011.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Metzler, the 169th Maintenance Group Commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait July 14, 2011. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- As I write these words in late April, with the specter of budget cuts this year and next, there are technician furloughs and possibly another round of Base Realignment and Closure on the horizon. All the while, we are still making every preparation for a Certified Readiness Evaluation in September. It strikes me how very dedicated McEntire folks are, and how very much they want the inspection to go well. It's been five years since we've last done this and the rules have changed a lot (especially in the last few days!), but the basic principle is the same: a tough test with very high standards and a tight schedule to squeeze it all into. It's a challenge and we're the kind of unit that likes to rise to the challenge. There are a good many of us who were here for past inspections in 2007 and 2008 (and the 1996 and 1992 inspections before that), but most of us are in different jobs from what we held in 2008. Everyone now has practiced in January, February and April and should be familiar with the process and the roles each of us will play in the September CRE. I'll complain right along with you about the preparation for an inspection, but the fact is we'll be more capable, more compliant and a more lethal combat unit because we're doing the hard work necessary to do well on the CRE.

Another recurring thought I have is the changing face of McEntire and how "things used to be" around here. When I arrived here in early 1984, it seemed like everyone had been here for 30-plus years and had spent their entire lives here. Typical retirement ceremonies were marked with words that the retiree served for 42 years, meaning they'd joined at age 18 and remained in service until mandatory retirement at age 60. That would be a remarkable career, but I don't see that kind of longevity quite as much as I used to. The fact is the typical member of the guard today has deployed more in the last five years than many of previous generations deployed in 40 years. There was a long time between our deployments during the Berlin Airlift to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. And since our trip to Al Kharj, we've been deploying at an increasing tempo. We've sent the "flying package" overseas six times since 2001, with many other Air Traffic Control, Security Forces, Civil Engineer and Fire Department deployments as well - both unit and individual volunteer deployments. The Guard isn't what it was back in the "Shining Times" our retirees speak of, but I believe the current times ARE the "Shining Times." I take a great deal of pride in the fact that I'm part of an organization that doesn't just train to be ready, but actually does what it trains to do. Our Cold War model of a strategic reserve had been transformed into the Guard being an operational, not strategic, reserve. That brings with it the difficulties and sacrifices our active-duty counterparts have always accepted, but it also brings a sense of satisfaction that only selfless service can bring.

My final thought is on individuals at McEntire. Through the challenges of daily life, the budget, the training, the inspections, the deployments and the sacrifice of public service, we accept a level of personal stress that the average citizen can only guess. We mostly take all of this in stride and with help of family and friends we are able to make the sacrifices and maintain some semblance of a normal life. There are times and events that bend us to the breaking point and beyond, and there is no better shoulder to lean on that the shoulder of a fellow Airman. That person knows well how hard life can be for us in uniform, and we owe it to each other to be supportive and a source of aid and comfort to each other in the hard times. Our Winter Wingman and Resilient Airman programs are formal expressions of our concern for one another, but it remains the individual touch that has the most profound effect on a person's life. It's the genuine, personal concern for your fellow Airman that will make the difference. I can attest to how that personal interest in my well-being from a fellow airman has been an immeasurable comfort to me in the darker times of my life. Someone who's "been there and done that" can ease the burden of a fellow warrior struggling with life's burdens. Thank you for all who've reached out to me, and thank you to each of you for the same support you provide to each other.