Col. Schiess offers final commentary

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander, and his wife, Debbie, prepare for their transition to Washington D.C. after serving as the wing commander since June 2015. Schiess is in command of the Air Force’s most geographically separated wing located in eight countries, crossing 13 time zones, and 38 units at 22 locations. Schiess’ change of command is scheduled for July 11, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany Lundberg)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander, and his wife, Debbie, prepare for their transition to Washington D.C. after serving as the wing commander since June 2015. Schiess is in command of the Air Force’s most geographically separated wing located in eight countries, crossing 13 time zones, and 38 units at 22 locations. Schiess’ change of command is scheduled for July 11, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tiffany Lundberg)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Serving as your commander for the past two years has been an absolute honor and a privilege. Over and over again, I’ve been amazed by your innovation, work ethic and your dedication to the mission. As Debbie and I prepare to transition to Washington, D.C., allow me one final opportunity to reflect and thank you for a job well done.

When I took command back in June 2015, I asked you to live the words of former President John Quincy Adams when he said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” and together as a wing, you’ve done just that.

Together, we have actively begun implementing the Space Mission Force, fundamentally changing how we present forces to U.S. Strategic Command. We have executed more than 140,000 hours of missile warning, missile defense and space situational awareness in support of combatant commanders across the globe. In 2016 alone, we tracked 3.1 billion objects making up 96 percent of data for the space object catalog.

Downrange, we have deployed more than 500 of our Airmen to austere locations in support of Operations Inherent Resolve, Silent Sentry and Freedom’s Sentinel, providing unrivaled space superiority to protect countless flying operations, troop movements and more than 15,000 fellow service members on the ground.

At Thule Air Base in Greenland, we’ve provided incredible support to ensure our own missile warning and space situational awareness mission and the 50th Space Wing’s satellite control mission can operate in the most extreme conditions while also supporting important international operations and scientific research on the top of the world.

Here at Peterson Air Force Base, we have provided superior mission support to 53 mission partners by securing and protecting our base, and ensuring any administrative, logistical and medical requirements were met so we could all accomplish our missions. We completed the repairs to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station from the devastating 2013 landslide, while still providing outstanding support to our many mission partners in the mountain, including North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

We have also provided incredible medical support to the whole military community in Colorado Springs, to include our sister wing at Schriever AFB. And we have continuously worked to take care of our Airmen and families here at home by reinvigorating our community and deployed family dinners to help families recharge, and by starting 24-hour access to our fitness center to accommodate all schedules.

That care for our families was never more evident than when we learned of the death of one of our own, Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, who died while deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. When we received the news, you all immediately jumped to action to support his squadron, his friends and his family. As a fellow Airman and as a father, I was moved to see Peterson’s streets lined with our Airmen and family members to pay our respects to Austin and his family as he returned home for the final time.

Together, we have been through some challenging times, like the tens of millions in damages from the storms that hit Cheyenne Mountain and last summer’s intense hail storm--the sixth-largest hail storm in Colorado’s history—and the emergency response for the Thunderbird crash after the 2016 U.S. Air Force Academy graduation. But, these past two years have also given us the opportunity to celebrate and recognize our accomplishments as a team. For example, out of 156 bases, we were named the runner-up for the Commander-in-Chief’s Installation Excellence Award. Your tireless efforts to do more and be more earned the General Robert T. Herres Award for the Best Space Wing in 14th Air Force and the General Thomas S. Moorman, Junior Award for the Best Wing in Air Force Space Command. Most recently, we were selected to receive the Omaha Trophy from Gen. John Hyten, USSTRATCOM commander, for the Best Global Operations in USSTRATCOM. On top of these awards, we’ve celebrated dozens and dozens of individual awards for our Airmen recognized at the Major Command, Air Force and Department of Defense-level for being the best at what you do.

As we wrap up our time here at Peterson, Debbie and I want to thank you for everything you have already done and will continue to do for our nation. Although many citizens across the country and maybe even some fellow service members may not know what you do, we hope you understand just how much of an impact you have on our nation’s defense.

We also want to say thank you to all of our mission partners in Team Pete and to all of our friends and partners throughout Colorado Springs. We were lucky to call this community our home and we will truly miss all of you.

Serving as your wing commander has been the most rewarding and humbling experience of my career and the highlight of our time in the Air Force. We couldn’t be more excited for Col. Todd Moore and his spouse Kelly, and we cannot wait to see what the Knights of the 21st Space Wing will dream, learn, do and become next!