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Renewed focus on our mission, our people and ourselves

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Here we are in the first summer of a new decade with renewed focus on a familiar mission and a few new challenges.

We've just come off the end of a compliance inspection last spring that proved once again that this wing can get the job done. By now we've had time to breathe and decompress from the demands of such a critical test for our unit. Now it's time to get back to what we do best - maintain and operate one of the safest F-16 training units in the world.

This means applying what we learned during the inspection, paying attention to detail, and keeping a focus on safety. Everyone on base should remember their roles in programs that protect our people and resources; from looking out for FOD to operational risk management.

And we should all apply our safety-minded culture to our personal lives. Whether planning a vacation, driving to Mount Lemmon, riding a bike, swimming or barbequing in our back yards, we need to weigh all the risks and make sure that we are not creating dangerous situations.

Along with these professional responsibilities we all share, I ask everyone to be a good wingman to their co-workers. The Air Force's Wingman program encourages us and our families to look out for each other and to intervene when signs of stress are observed.

For many of us, we spend more time each day among our fellow Guardsmen than we do with our families and often we are in a position to spot the first signs of trouble in each other whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

Everyone should check out www.az.wingmanproject.org to learn how to read the signs of distress and how to intervene. The Wingman Project site offers a disturbing fact; since 2001 far more Airmen have been lost to suicide than in combat by a ratio of 7 to 1. This is simply unacceptable.

Sometimes people just need a friend to listen, but sometimes they need more help. In any case, use the 162nd's support network. The chaplains office, family readiness, the Jimmy Jet Foundation, the technician assistance program, first sergeants, the medical group and equal opportunity are all here to help.

While you are looking out for each other, remember that there is no better time to start taking care of you. Take time to exercise to manage your stress and improve your health. The new Air Force fitness test standards began July 1. Are you ready?

Lately I've noticed an increased interest in fitness on base. I see more people running from the main gate down Valencia. The base fitness center is getting a fair share of traffic. Groups are meeting to participate in P90X, they're training at the Sunnyside track and the 9G Fitness program has taken off.

These are all very good signs. I'm proud to see people making fitness a part of our year-round culture. If you haven't started a personal fitness program, now is the time to start.

There are several new aspects to the fitness test. Possibly the most important change is that a failure to meet a minimum in any one category will result in automatic failure; meaning a poor performance on the sit-ups test can't be compensated by a good score on the 1.5 mile run. Get to know the requirements for your age group and find out more about the test at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/affitnessprogram/index.asp.

A passing score will be vital to promotions, reenlistments and attendance at schools -- not to mention having a positive impact on your overall health and ability to accomplish the mission.

Another way to ensure you have a long and successful military career is to avoid driving under the influence at all costs. A DUI conviction can stop your career in its tracks. Use a designated driver, call a friend, call a taxi, use Airmen Against Drunk Driving, but do not get behind the wheel if you've been drinking.

If you've had a DUI and haven't notified your supervisor yet, do so now. Don't wait until it's time to reenlist or renew your security clearance because by then it may be too late for your commanders to help you.

Let's make it a priority this summer to exercise good judgment, make smart decisions, manage stress properly and help each other out when we're needed. Each member of this wing is invaluable to the mission and a part of the Guard family.