Maj. Gen. James Hecker, 19th Air Force commander, visited here Dec. 10, 2015, to observe the people and progress of the 149th Fighter Wing.
The 149th FW was number 17 of 19 visits on the general’s schedule before the close of the year. During his visit, Hecker held an all call where he addressed the members of the wing and praised them for the work they’re doing to support the F-16 mission.
“We couldn’t produce the number of fighter pilots we produce without you,” Hecker said. He recognized the diversity and varied skills that Air National Guard members bring to the fight, but also challenged them on suicide prevention. Suicides in the Total Force, including civilians, climbed from 85 in 2014 to 105 in 2015.
“The best leadership advice I’ve ever gotten is to treat them like your son or daughter ... or like your brother or sister,” Hecker said. He explained that by treating people in this way, you’ll always have someone’s best interest at heart, especially in regards to correction, thereby fostering a more respectful and understanding work climate.
The 19th Air Force commander also didn’t shy away from other real issues facing the force today, namely, sexual assault, substance abuse and child predators.
“The people who do this won’t listen to what I’m saying, but I’m talking to the 99.9 percent of people who don’t do this,” Hecker said. “If you witness this, have the moral courage to step in and do something about it because it’s cancer to our Air Force.”
After Hecker’s presentation, wing members had the opportunity to ask questions that ranged from transgender issues to the recent terrorist attacks. Hecker’s advice on the latter was to stay especially alert to your surroundings.
“What we can’t do is let them win,” he said. “If we hide away in our house and never go out, we let them win. Be vigilant. Don’t be scared, but just know your surroundings. Be your own guard for you and your family.”
The general concluded saying that the airmen he visits regularly are among the fi nest, and the active duty force recognize the Guardsmen’s superior performance out in the field and the skills they bring to the table.