Looking back on 2008 Published Jan. 11, 2009 By Col. Kelvin Findlay 151 ARW commander SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- What a year 2008 was! The year started off as the 151st Air Refueling Wing culminated its preparations for the Operational Readiness Inspection and Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection. We prepared for two years with the wing's Unit Compliance Inspection, Maintenance Standardization and Evaluation Team, Aircrew Stan/Eval Visit and the Health Services Inspection, and several other tenant unit inspections. We worked hard and pulled together. It was long and it was tough, but through it all I saw more smiles than frowns. I saw more camaraderie than frustrations, and I felt we grew as a wing and as a base. I will reiterate what I have said before: that you all ought to be proud of your performance. You truly earned the respect of Air Mobility Command's Inspector General, Brig. Gen. Donald Lustig. His visit during the outbrief was not just a box filler. He told our leadership in private, and wrote me later, that he was tremendously pleased with the Utah Air National Guard. Thanks again for what you did - each of you in the wing and throughout the base. From there we prepared for the unpleasant realities of the ANG Reset that set in on April 1. Hardest to swallow and work through has been the transition (and eventual demise) of the 299th Range Control Squadron. For them and the UTANG, it is the end of an era. From their inception in 1969, they have established standards and set records that we all can be proud of. We wish all of their members, particularly those who retire or move into a new organization, the very best. For many of you others, the Reset has meant a change in career direction. Thanks for moving forward positively. Throughout 2008, we were busy serving the nation throughout the world. We accomplished multiple deployments, both individual and in groups, to CENTCOM, EUCOM, SOUTHCOM, PACOM and NORTHCOM. We set records at Manas Air Base in the Kyrgyz Republic, we made ourselves ever more viable and invaluable in the many theaters where we served and we brought home accolades. Your service has been noted and very much appreciated. The country has acknowledged that your service is invaluable. On October 20, the DOD Directive 1200.17 was signed signifying that the Guard is no longer a "Strategic Reserve," but is now an "Operational Reserve." Later this fall, we saw the pinning of the Guard's first four-star general, Gen. Craig R. McKinley. Of the many things this signifies, one of the most notable is that the country does not view the Guard anymore as the "rag-tag militia." We are respected at home and abroad, and as General McKinley reminded us during November's Senior Leadership Conference, the four-star achievement belongs to the Airmen and Soldiers throughout the Guard who have earned the respect and admiration of their country. Yes, that's you! Finally, this fall we took part in a historic election and we witnessed a country and world financial crash that hasn't been seen for several generations. And though we have yet to see what history's long-view will write about all this, there are certainly challenges ahead. In short, looking back over 2008...whew, what a year!! In review, it perhaps made you want to go home for the holidays and hibernate for the winter. However, as I write this, it is a new year. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and life really is good. There is much to be grateful for, and there is much to look forward to in the future! We have a busy year ahead of us. Much of the wing and tenant units have AEF and deployment commitments. Many of you will deploy on your own or in small groups. Training schedules will continue to be full, and UTA weekends will be hectic. But our future looks bright. Our recruiters have helped us ensure that we are one of the strongest states in the country. We are working on future initiatives that should help us stay viable and valuable. And we have a superb cadre of young and mid career Airmen, the strongest I've seen in my career. Yes, there will be challenges ahead and hurdles to negotiate, but we will continue to excel as public servants who wear the country's uniform proudly. I'm proud to rub shoulders with you all!