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2015 Was Year of Challenges and Progress

Rome, NY -- As 2015 draws to a close, it's important to reflect on the past year's key events and our many accomplishments.

Organizational Changes Completed. In January, the 224 Air Defense Group and its two squadrons were activated. The 224 ADG is the NYANG unit deployed in place and charged with providing trained and ready Airmen to conduct the Eastern Air Defense Sector's homeland air defense mission. Stand up of the two squadrons has enabled decentralization of a number of command authorities, empowering our front line leaders.

Unreasonable Medical Burden Lifted. In April, the Air Force confirmed repeal of the ground based controller medical standard for 1C5s. This was the result of a months-long effort that began when Air Force Secretary Deborah James visited EADS in August 2014 and included a working visit from a Headquarters Air Force medical assessment team.

High Profile Incidents Were Leveraged to Make Us Better. As I'm sure everyone recalls, a Florida postal worker flew his gyrocopter onto the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol on April 15. The aftermath included Congressional hearings and in-depth reviews. As true professionals, you turned this event into an opportunity to make us better.

Since "gyrocopter," a Surveillance Working Group has developed improved techniques and procedures for detecting low, slow targets and we've integrated more discriminating sensors. We've also made good progress advocating for the normalization of the Battle Control Center as a weapon system and appear on track for improving our training capability with additional work stations and a cadre of contract BCC instructors.

Another well-chronicled incident occurred on Oct. 28, when the JLENS aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland broke free and floated over 100 miles. EADS ops crew immediately scrambled Atlantic City fighters to shadow the aerostat. The three-year JLENS operational test is on hold pending completion of an Army investigation into the incident. No matter the outcome, the hard work and expertise of EADS professionals have been essential to the high profile efforts to defend the nation's capital from cruise missile attack.

Largest Air Defense Surge Since 9-11. As always, our operational pace was intense. No period was busier than September, when Pope Francis' visit resulted in CONR's most significant air defense effort since the post-9-11 surge. During this period, EADS provided air defense for a two-week Presidential visit to Martha's Vineyard, the Papal visit to D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, and the United Nations General Assembly; all in the span of one month.

Surge operations were nothing new to our security forces, as force protection was emphasized throughout the year. SF implemented Force Protection Condition Bravo on April 8 and has remained in that posture since.

Innovation, Communication and Culture. An initiative undertaken by the 224 Support Squadron with the Air Force Research Laboratory resulted in EADS becoming the first Air Force unit to use SecureView, a technology solution that provides secure network access to key leaders in our headquarters building. It also led to a formal agreement between EADS and AFRL, which will generate more collaborative projects in the years to come. 

Leaders at all levels have moved the organization forward consistent with the priorities we established in January. We've enhanced our execution of the steady state mission and successfully pursued better surge capability. Since last January, the number of drill status guardsmen - our essential surge force - has grown by 30 percent. We've convinced 1 Air Force and National Guard Bureau to build Battle Control Center UTCs and that effort is underway. It appears we've also finally convinced Air Combat Command to fund additional scopes.

Major steps have been instituted to take care of EADS Airmen and improve unit morale and organizational culture. We've hired a chaplain, a safety/occupational health manager and a community support coordinator. We've developed a communications plan, made improvements to the building 700 break room, rest rooms, new wall displays, and set up a quiet R&R room. We've also started the initial design efforts for Building 700 modernization

A Sad Note. Unfortunately, 2015 provided a time of profound sadness for the EADS family. Col.  Wade Dewey passed away in October after a long and courageous battle with cancer. In perhaps the most fitting tribute to him, this unit unhesitatingly supported the Dewey family and the many grieving members here at EADS. A funeral with military's honors and a unit memorial service were perfectly orchestrated.

2015 has been a challenging year. I applaud all you for dealing with these difficulties with professionalism and a can-do attitude. I'm incredibly proud of your many accomplishments and am excited about the major improvements we have on deck for 2016!