Holiday greetings, reflections on 2016

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Manion
  • 403rd Wing

The holidays are a special time of year, one we enjoy celebrating with friends and families. It’s also a time when many of us reflect upon past accomplishments and goals for the New Year.


The Citizen Airmen of the 403rd Wing have made significant contributions over this past year to our nation, Air Force and Air Force Reserve.


Some of our Airmen have deployed either away or in place to support combatant commanders and promote security and stability around the globe this year. This is why we train continuously, maintaining our readiness so we are prepared to support should we be called. Please remember all Airmen whose selfless service preserves our freedoms, yet keeps them apart from their loved ones this holiday season.

Stateside, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron ‘Hurricane Hunters’ kicked off the year gathering data for a record-breaking blizzard in January and flew a late storm extending into the morning of Thanksgiving. It was a busy storm season with the unit flying 76 missions into 13 storms (10 in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific). The Atlantic storms Hurricane Matthew and Hermine were this year’s most destructive, but the squadron’s data improved National Hurricane Center forecasts, saving lives and property.


This year was one of growth and opportunities as well. The 815th Airlift Squadron, our tactical airlift unit, is rebuilding in preparation for their next deployment. The storied “Flying Jennies’ sharpened their skills participating in several exercises and events to include Saber Junction, a U.S. Army combat training center certification exercise, in April, and the 72nd Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France in June.


We also saw the addition of two squadrons, the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. The newly activated 803rd AMXS (a brand new squadron that did not exist until this year) inspects, repairs, launches and recovers the 10 C-130J Super Hercules flown by the 815th AS. How fortunate for the men and women of the 803rd to have the opportunity to write the initial pages of the unit’s history. We also gained the 36th AES, which relocated here from Pope Field, North Carolina, to become part of our wing. We welcome this unit of heroes, who transport patients in need of life-saving care. Not only will they work closely with the 53rd WRS and 815th AS, but also with our Team Keesler counterparts at the 81st Medical Group, which operates the Air Force’s second largest hospital. Our AE personnel will train with their Critical Care Air Transport and Tactical Critical Care Evacuation Teams.


Additionally, as part of a small select number of Force Support Squadrons and under the direction of the Secretary of the Air Force, the 403rd FSS collocated with the 81st FSS this year. As the collocation matures we expect to see increased efficiencies for both units and customers.


It’s been a tough road over the last few years; however, we are focused on building this wing into an unrivaled organization. We have the right Airmen, right attitudes, and right team at Keesler to make this happen. Whether it’s the maintenance group providing mission-capable aircraft, the operations group flying those aircraft, the mission support group providing agile combat support or the medical squadron ensuring our medical readiness, we all work together to provide the nation with weather reconnaissance, tactical airlift, and AE capabilities. 


The year will bring its own challenges; but, regardless of the task, our Airmen will be successful.  I thank all of you for your dedication, service and sacrifices, as well as your families and the employers who support you. I also thank our counterparts at the 81st Training Wing whose support enables us to train and accomplish the mission. Our success does not happen without the contributions of every Airman and civilian who are part of this outstanding organization that makes up Team Keesler. Please have a safe and wonderful holiday season and return to the 403rd Wing ready to take on the challenges of the New Year.