21st Space Wing faces tough week

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Last week was clearly a tragic week for the 21st Space Wing as we lost a vital member of our team in an off base vehicle accident.

On June 4, Staff Sgt. Jorge Barba, assigned to the Area Dental Lab, was killed in a vehicle accident. He volunteered to cross-train into the dental laboratory career field and had, in total, 8 years of faithful and honorable service to our Air Force and nation. We have lost a valued member of our team, and his family has lost a husband and father. I extend my deepest personal condolences to Sergeant Barba's family, friends and his co-workers. Please keep them all in your thoughts.

This tragedy reminds us all how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken from us. We cannot afford to lose another Airman, nor let our guard down. Although we are in the 101 critical days of summer, each day is a critical day of your life. Unfortunately, statistics show that off-duty activities bring the most fatalities to our service men and women; sadly, most are preventable. Success in preventing most mishaps, both on and off-duty, depends on continuous hands-on leadership, training, wingmanship and vigilance at all times.

On June 10, we held a memorial service at the Base Chapel to celebrate the life of Sergeant Barba and to mourn together as a wing. Let's use this sad day as a sober reminder to redouble our efforts to take care of ourselves and each other each and every day.

We also had the honor of hosting our Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert M. Gates. In his speech, Secretary Gates said he came to Peterson AFB for three reasons. First, he wanted to explain his decision of the past week concerning the leadership of the Air Force, secondly, he wanted to thank the Airmen of Air Force Space Command for their dedicated service and finally he wanted to hear what was on our minds "straight from the shoulder."

To a packed auditorium, Secretary Gates talked about the need to set high performance standards, to develop a culture that embraces critical self inspection, and the need to hold everyone accountable in meeting these high standards. Although his comments were aimed at the nuclear mission...they directly apply to our mission as well. The criticality of our space superiority mission demands flawless execution, the highest of standards and accountability. This is something we talk about everyday in the 21st SW and clearly this will continue to be our focus in the coming months.

Once again, I would like to thank the members of this wing who worked so hard to ensure the SECDEF's visit was flawless. A special thanks to our security forces, base operations, public affairs, protocol, communications and our civil engineering professionals who all worked closely with their Headquarters Air Force Space Command counterparts to execute this visit. This really was a team effort.

I am proud to serve alongside each and every member of this wing--officer, enlisted and civilian. Thank you for serving your country, for your dedicated service and for setting and achieving very high standards.