Take care of the family, the mission -- Tigers Lead!

  • Published
  • By Col. Russell P. Cook, 23rd Wing commander
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Flying Tigers,

It’s an absolute honor to be part of your team and shared legacy. You are the best in the world at what you do – never forget that. I want to take a moment to discuss 23rd Wing priorities as we prepare for the next fight and continue to defend this nation, our allies and partners from all enemies. Our desired goal is for the “FLYING TIGERS TO BE RESILIENT, ADAPTABLE, READY AIRMEN THAT GENERATE COMBAT FORCES CAPABLE OF LEADING THE FIGHT – ANYTIME, ANYWHERE.” Our priorities to achieve that state are simple -- take care of the FAMILY and the MISSION.

To understand our priorities, it is important to recognize the environment that currently exists. Strategic competitors and authoritarian regimes, most notably China and Russia, are attempting to erode the democratic values that this nation, along with our partners, fought to instill. This was highlighted by the 2018 National Defense Strategy and reinforced by the 2021 interim National Security Strategy. Our entire focus must be ensuring that we are ready to deter and defeat the most capable of adversaries in the future.

This will be a long struggle. To be successful, we must prepare resilient and combat ready Airmen and keep the talent that we have as we train our replacements. Our ability to fight is 100 percent dependent on you and your faith in this service and leaders. This nation remains on a historic and unique journey, a journey that is long fought and filled with struggle, to live up to our promise of a single nation that represents many. We as Airmen must continue to contribute to that journey as we have throughout our shared history.

In order to focus on the Flying Tiger mission and ensure we are ready to lead anytime, anywhere, the 23rd Wing has stood up a new warfighting staff – often referred to as the A-Staff. This staff’s sole purpose is to synchronize operations, planning and sustainment across the wing and be ready to deploy and provide command and control as needed anywhere in the world.

Our mission to provide combat ready forces has not changed since Claire Chennault led the first Flying Tigers against oppression in 1941. We have remained wildly successful and in high demand by combatant commands around the world since those early days. What has changed recently is the requirement to transition to a focus on strategic competitors and new adversaries. In order to do that, our warfighting staff will help plan and execute the most challenging of training exercises and continue to develop and focus our training infrastructure for the next fight. We must change our focus, and we will prevail.

Building on our lessons learned from Mosaic Tiger 21-1 in February, this wing will continue to develop the force generation, command and control, and sustainment capability needed to rapidly lead combat forces to deter and defeat an enemy anytime, anywhere. The 23rd Maintenance Group has already begun the process to reorganize under the Combat Oriented Maintenance Organization (COMO) model to better align maintenance with needed operational capability. The warfighting staff is developing the tactics and techniques needed to provide command and control for not just 23rd Wing forces, but assigned forces and capabilities in a joint environment. Lastly, we have led the way in developing Multi-Capable Airmen (MCA) and air base squadron concepts and will build on those lessons learned to ensure that the Flying Tigers are ready to conduct Agile Combat Employment (ACE). My intent is to test these Lead Wing capabilities in the next Mosaic Tiger 21-2 iteration planned for November, followed by Mosaic Tiger 22-1 and Agile Flag in 2022.

The Flying Tigers have proven that we can lead innovation across the force with development actions like MCA training and the STARCART fuel distribution system. We will continue to focus our innovation efforts on building combat forces ready to conduct ACE as a Lead Wing.

We are nothing without our Flying Tiger family. To better synchronize our helping agencies, the 23rd Wing has a separate command staff that is responsible for coordination and communication of family support activities and functions. We have also stood up a Total Force Development Team that helps synergize private organizations with base agencies to create an inclusive culture while addressing issues that impact our Airmen.

Aircraft don’t fight, radios don’t provide command and control, and fences don’t defend – Airmen do. We cannot fail at our mission. As a result, it is our duty to build a culture of warfighting from teams of Airmen who are responsible for one another. Teams cannot thrive without trust and inclusion. Trust is shared confidence between leaders, subordinates and partners that can be relied upon even in the face of adversity. A culture of inclusion is one where all members are free to make their fullest contribution. Without trust and inclusion, we cannot make warfighters. Without warfighters, we cannot succeed.

We will continue to invest in Airmen. We have an opportunity to share experiences at every level through base professional development – Airman Leadership School and the First Term Airmen Course (FTAC), Flight Leadership and Squadron Commander Courses. We can further build on that foundational development through programs such as Emerge Moody and Moody Leadership by capitalizing on the experiences of our community leaders. By investing in and developing our Airmen, we can better support leaders at every level.

Our families are responsible for our collective success and often sacrifice their own opportunities to provide that support. We will continue to invest and promote outreach toward our families through the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, Community Support Coordinator, base helping agencies and private organizations by synchronizing and prioritizing these efforts through the Total Force Development Team. The 23rd Wing will use every avenue of communication possible to listen to feedback from families on how we can improve.

In the face of a changing Air Force ready to meet the challenge of committed adversaries, I have every reason to believe that the Flying Tigers will stand above all others – just as we have throughout history. We are the right wing, filled with the right Airmen, to lead combat forces anytime, anywhere. Never forget that you are a Flying Tiger – ATTACK, RESCUE, PREVAIL – TIGERS LEAD!