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388th FW moves forward

Col. Robert Beletic taxiis to the 388th Fighter Wing ramp from his last flight with the wing before his departure to his new duty station.

Col. Robert Beletic taxis to the 388th Fighter Wing ramp from his last flight with the wing before his departure to his new duty station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alex Lloyd)

Col. Robert Beletic shakes hands with Col. Scott Chambers, 75th Air Base Wing commander, at Col. Beletic's farewell in Hangar 37 June 29 while Col. Todd Harmer looks on.

Col. Robert Beletic shakes hands with Col. Scott Chambers, 75th Air Base Wing commander, at Col. Beletic's farewell in Hangar 37 June 29 while Col. Todd Harmer looks on. (Photo by 1st Lt. Beth Woodward)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- After two years in the commander's seat, Col. Robert Beletic, 388th Fighter Wing commander, shares his thoughts on the wing's progress, challenges and future.

Colonel Beletic relinquished command of the wing to 388th Vice Wing Commander, Col. Todd Harmer, in a ceremony July 6. Colonel Harmer will act as wing commander until the new commander, Col. Scott Dennis, arrives at Hill AFB in late July.

Colonel Beletic is moving on to serve as chief of the House Liaison Office for Secretary of the Air Force Legislative Liaison at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Q: What would you consider to be the wing's biggest accomplishments during your time here?
A: Our number one priority has been focusing on the Air and Space Expeditionary Force cycle -- fighting the war. We have sent thousands down range, and they have performed beyond everyone's expectations. We have met 100 percent of all objectives, and by the grace of God, we brought everyone home safely. Our chief master sergeants and commanders have given our people the right leadership, equipment, training and attitude, making the 388th FW very successful down range. Our biggest accomplishment is what we've done to help the Iraqi people. In the end, our number one measure of merit is our advancement of combat capability. We have proven it down range over and over. We had at least one unit from the 388th FW deployed for 32 of the past 38 months. Currently, we have the 729th Air Control Squadron in Iraq, and the 4th Fighter Squadron will join them in a few weeks.

Q: In the years to come, what areas would you hope to see the wing focus on and improve upon?
A: We provide the world's best close air support, the world's best air control, and the world's best test and training range. We need to keep our focus on these three aimpoints because the Air Force and combatant commanders count on us. Our pilots and maintainers, using cutting-edge technology, provide the world's best close air support. The 729th Air Control Squadron provides the world's best air control, is the most heavily tasked 388th unit, and has the world's finest air control compound thanks to our taxpayers contributing over $9 million to the unit's facilities. I am sure the unit now has the best facility of its kind. The air controllers are training and challenging each other, and I'm confident they will continue to excel. And the Utah Test and Training Range, thanks to our congressional delegation, the local community and Range Squadron leadership, is the world's finest test and training range. Let's continue to work these areas. You can't ever just maintain the current status; you have to keep advancing to stay the world's best.

Q: What is your vision for the wing?
A: We're disciplined Airmen building and constantly advancing relevant, versatile, and lethal air power. "Relevant" means it's what the combatant commanders need. It doesn't do us any good to be good at a skill set that no one needs in war. "Relevant" for the 388th FW is close air support. That's what we do -- we work closely with the Army, Navy, Marines, and all the special forces. And that's why we're in high demand. "Versatile" means that we don't always know where the next war's going to be. The wing is prepared to employ every type of munition the F-16 carries. We should be able to fight over sea, land, desert, jungle, day or night, rain or shine. That's being versatile -- we should be able to fight in anything, in any way. "Lethal" means we need to be able to hit what we're aiming at. We've got to be good. This is not just a matter of dropping a bomb. We must be consistent and accurate.

Q: How would you define the wing's mission and priorities?
A: We train in cadence with the AEF cycle to ensure everyone's ready to deploy properly and execute the mission. We take the right personnel and equipment, and we don't take more than we need. In addition to the AEF, we're focusing on the Common Configuration Implementation Program and Total Force Integration. CCIP upgrades significantly advance our combat capability, and the 4th Fighter Squadron will be the first to safely exploit these new capabilities during an overseas deployment. CCIP brings us revolutionary capabilities in secure data link, pertinent information in the pilot's helmet, color displays in the cockpit, and the latest technology in targeting pods. Aircraft upgrades and CCIP training for 388th FW maintainers and pilots has taken 18 months. Additionally, our integration with the 419th FW has been a priority. The two wings working side-by-side make a more combat capable team. We're capitalizing on the inherent strengths of both components, and we've been tremendously successful.

Q: You've mentioned that the 388th is one of the most actively engaged combat wings you've seen. During this time of high involvement in the Global War on Terrorism, what piece of advice would you give 388th Airmen?
A: We're successful because we're a disciplined force. Discipline is our soul here, and it makes us successful. And I like to say, discipline, discipline, discipline. Disciplined thought, disciplined action, and disciplined documentation. If Airmen continue to stay disciplined and improve in a methodical approach to warfare, they will continue to be successful in their careers and in their lives. That said, we also need to take care of each other. I'm proud of everyone and thankful for their service to their country.

Q: Personally, what impact do you hope to have left with the 388th?
A: I'm proud to have been a part of the team that has advanced the wing in so many ways. Once again, the ultimate measure of merit is combat capability, and we are better today than we were two years ago. We were better two years ago than we were four years ago -- there's a continual development. The current generation has done a great job of enhancing these capabilities, as previous generations have done and future generations will continue to do. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I trust our shoulders will be worthy of the next generation to stand on.

Q: Are there any outside agencies that have contributed to the 388th FW's success during your time here?
A: Yes, the local community has been phenomenally supportive. We are particularly proud of our Honorary Commander and Falcon programs and what they have done to help our junior enlisted. Our junior enlisted Airmen have a higher quality of life and more educational opportunities thanks to the Honorary Commanders and Falcons. These civic leaders have provided mentorship to 388th commanders, and in doing so, they have stepped away with a greater knowledge of the Air Force. Our Air Force Material Command hosts, to include the 75th Air Base Wing and Ogden Air Logistics Center, have also provided great support to our mission. I would like to say that the 388th FW could not fly and fix airplanes by itself, but with our counterparts at the air base wing and depot, we provide the world's best close air support, air control, and test and training range. We need teamwork to accomplish the mission, and the community, ALC and ABW have done a brilliant job of providing it.