Commander recaps visit to Thule, spouse’s town hall meeting

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Col. John Raymond, 21st Space Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Omdal, 21st SW command chief, along with Staff Sgt. Ava Dunn, 21st SW, visited Thule Air Base Feb. 28-29. In addition to visiting Airmen in their work centers at many sites on base, Colonel Raymond hosted a Commander's Call to discuss important topics with the Airmen at Thule. Thule Air Base is considered a globally-separated unit, and its parent wing is the 21st Space Wing located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Pictured from left to right are: Chief Master Sgt. Nathalie Swisher, 821st Air Base Group superintendent, Chief Omdal, Sergeant Dunn, Colonel Raymond, and Col. Lee-Volker Cox, 821st ABG commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Donald Heaton)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Col. John Raymond, 21st Space Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Omdal, 21st SW command chief, along with Staff Sgt. Ava Dunn, 21st SW, visited Thule Air Base Feb. 28-29. In addition to visiting Airmen in their work centers at many sites on base, Colonel Raymond hosted a Commander's Call to discuss important topics with the Airmen at Thule. Thule Air Base is considered a globally-separated unit, and its parent wing is the 21st Space Wing located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Pictured from left to right are: Chief Master Sgt. Nathalie Swisher, 821st Air Base Group superintendent, Chief Omdal, Sergeant Dunn, Colonel Raymond, and Col. Lee-Volker Cox, 821st ABG commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Donald Heaton)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- On Feb. 28, Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Omdal, your command chief, and I visited the 821st Air Base Group at Thule Air Base, Greenland. Accompanying us on our visit was Staff Sgt. Ava Dunn, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of knowledge operations for the wing command section. It was Sergeant Dunn's first opportunity to travel to one of our geographically-separated units and see first-hand one of the units she's helped to support during her two years at Peterson. I know she was very thankful to have the opportunity to see this unique part of the world and to meet the professional men and women from Thule.
 
Starting next week, Sergeant Dunn transitions from the Information Management career field to the Intelligence career field, working as an Imagery Analyst in her next Air Force assignment. Throughout her time in the wing, Sergeant Dunn has been a stellar performer and an outstanding co-worker. I know I speak for the entire wing when I say we will truly miss the contributions she made in support of the 21st Space Wing mission. I extend my best wishes to her and am confident she will continue to be a tremendous asset to the Air Force in the coming years. 

The visit to Thule, my second trip to the "Top of the World" since assuming command of the wing, was another outstanding success. Since a typical military assignment at Thule usually lasts a single year, I was able to meet many new people that were not present during my last visit. One thing is clear ... Thule personnel continue to carry out flawless missile warning and space control operations while also providing unsurpassed installation support and protection -- and they do so while being deployed in-place in some of the harshest conditions you will find anywhere in the world.
 
Aside from continuing to execute the wing's mission in superb fashion, a number of other things stood out from the Thule trip. First of all, the quality of facilities at Thule is quite impressive. From the brand new state-of-the-art movie theater and the top-notch fitness center, to the outstanding dormitories, the overall quality of life at Thule is a real success story. Given the remote environment they operate in, it's very satisfying to see that we have been able to take care of our Airmen this way. 

Something else we saw during our visit to Thule was the continuing progress the 12th Space Warning Squadron is making in upgrading its missile warning radar to the Upgraded Early Warning Radar system. The upgrade will consist of hardware and software modifications that will add a missile defense capability to the existing missile warning and space surveillance missions. With the UEWR construction phase having been completed over a month ago and the ongoing equipment installation phase currently taking place, Thule's radar is expected to be operational in late 2009. It's exciting to see the steady progress the 12th SWS is making as it joins our other ground-based radars at Beale AFB, Calif. and Royal Air Force Fylingdales, Great Britian, as UEWR-configured sites. 

One of the reasons Thule has been able to thrive in such an austere environment is the great working relationship the Greenlandic contractors, civil service and military personnel have with one another. You can see it with the teamwork and dedication to getting the job done that is prevalent throughout the base. In addition, there are outstanding leaders at all levels doing great things for Thule. For example, 1st Lt. Nick Van Elsacker and Master Sgt. Scott Baber have been instrumental in providing a solid way-ahead for upgrading Thule's power plant. This has been one of the most pressing issues facing Thule and they have done a magnificent job taking care of this top priority. Another example is the great work Airman 1st Class Crissy Nelson, 821st Support Squadron, has done with the Thule's physical training program. She oversees the entire program and we were very impressed with the job she has done in this area. 

As I mentioned in last week's article, there was a Spouse's Town Hall meeting March 3. Thanks to the solid support we received from all those who attended, the meeting turned out to be very enlightening and informative. Each of the on-base agencies who presented at the meeting had three minutes to describe the role they play in supporting Peterson families and spouses, followed by an in-depth question and answer session. This format was very beneficial in that everyone, whether associated with the 21st SW or any of the other units on Peterson, was able to learn more about available on-base services they may not have known about prior to the meeting. 

My thanks to the 1st Sergeants, Airman and Family Readiness Center and the Youth Center staff as well as representatives from Tri-Care, the 21st Services Squadron and Tierra Vista Communities for their participation in this event. Additionally, many thanks to members of the Junior Enlisted Association for providing free child care during the event. The meeting was so successful that we plan on having another Spouses Town Hall in the future. 

Before I close this week's article, I'd like to recognize a very special accomplishment by one of our 19th Hole Grill employees at the Peterson golf course. Tonie Gingrass, who has worked in the 21st SW since 1988 and is originally from Thailand, just received word that she has been approved for U.S. citizenship. Anyone talking to her for any length of time can tell she is extremely proud to be a U.S. citizen and I just want to say congratulations, once again, to her for this memorable event in her life. She has been a shining example of hard work and patriotism from the very beginning and it's truly inspiring to see someone take so much pride in who they are and what they do. Congratulations again, Tonie, nobody deserves it more than you.