Looking ahead to 2014

Looking ahead to 2014 - commentary by Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander.

Looking ahead to 2014 - commentary by Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander.

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- This is the time of year prognosticators look ahead to predict what is on the horizon for the next twelve months. I don't claim to have any powers of prediction, but if one were to forecast some of the impacts that national and world events will have on our military in 2014, I'll offer these general areas to focus your scan.

Starting at the global level, it is no surprise we will continue to be engaged in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom has kept us pretty busy for the last 12 years and 2014 will be no exception as we write its final chapter. The advertised drawdown may provide another spike in our ops tempo as we begin the retrograde of troops and supplies. The demand for strategic airlift in this area of the world will most likely be as high as ever.

We may be stretched in two directions when we consider the national security requirements in the Asia-Pacific theatre as well as CENTCOM's. The much anticipated "shift to the Pacific" may become a reality as we consider the challenges presented by China and North Korea in their respective regions of influence. A look at our overseas AORs will most probably require regard in both the east and the west directions in 2014.

Closer to home, our own country's national political fireworks will probably provide as much fodder for news junkies as 2013's did. We have an National Defense Authorization Act that was signed in December and removes the threat of the fiscal cliff, but there is no sugar-coating the fact that the budget will continue to remain in a sharp decline -- whether it's a cliff or just a really steep hill. Force structure reductions will be a reality for many and the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force may rework our entire concept of a three component Air Force. The report is due out in February and I know I'll be tuned in to see what it provides. I am also eager to see the first leadership challenges in the tenure of our new SECAF, the Honorable Deborah Lee James.

Right here at the base, wing and unit levels, there will be plenty to keep our attention. Having reset the Unit Effectiveness Inspection cycles for another two years, the implementation groundwork has been laid. Now is the time to capitalize on our momentum and consolidate the gains all three wings have made in their Commanders' Inspection Programs.

Looking at the most tactical level, to our Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers, there will be no reduction in the need to care for each other. Expect the continuation of the programs that make a difference to our people and value human worth, whether they are sexual assault prevention and response, suicide prevention, resiliency enhancement, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Programs or others. Look to your fellow Wingmen, Shipmates and Battle Buddies for consistent comprehensive care. We truly can't accomplish our mission without this effort by all of our military and civilian members.

The demands on our uniformed services are not letting up. The mission is as important as ever while some of the rules of the game have unfortunately changed. Wherever we look, we will all be challenged in 2014. Our success depends on you taking care of yourself and each other. I look forward to another great year with Team Charleston leading the way.

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