SJAFB, a year of challenge and triumph
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 11, 2012 1:46 PM
He could use their accomplishments to tout his ability to lead -- the man who commanded the 4th Fighter Wing over the course of a year many believe will be remembered long after those currently serving at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base are replaced by future generations.
But if you ask Col. Patrick Doherty to reflect on 2011, he quickly turns his focus to the men and women whose sacrifices "really made it happen" at home and in theater.
"My hat goes off to the people first. It's always about the people ... and we've got some incredibly patriotic service across the board," he said. "The dutiful sacrifices that they (make) each and every day to do their jobs exceptionally well ... is what's truly impressive."
Some left loved ones behind for half a year after being called upon to participate in the first six-month Air Expeditionary Forces deployment in Air Force history.
Others worked long hours to help Doherty and his team realize their vision of the biggest Wings Over Wayne ever.
And when Hurricane Irene made its way toward Goldsboro, airmen executed a massive evacuation of F-15Es and KC-135s.
"The line of, 'Fourth but first,' always comes into play. Whether it's by design or not, we are always asked to take on the heavy burdens, and I am incredibly proud of the way our team meets those challenges," the colonel said. "And they always meet it with exceptional performance. ... They are always shooting for perfection."
But there were other feats that were far less visible to those who live in the communities that surround Seymour Johnson -- ones Doherty said are equally as impressive.
Like the 32,000 flying hours logged by 4th aviators -- an accomplishment that is only possible when aircrews, maintainers and support personnel are at their best day in and day out.
"Flying hours equals combat capability ... and there is no other wing in the Air Force that flew that much," Doherty said. "It's that type of daily effort and professionalism ... whether it's downrange or right here, that should make people really proud."
Or the fact that by year's end, members of the wing had won more than 50 awards -- and the Civil Engineering Squadron, Contracting Squadron, Logistics Readiness Squadron, Lodging Facility and Dining Facility were named the best in the Air Force.
"The team is strong across the board, and it needs to be for our nation," Doherty said. "It really does."
But the colonel contends that he has come to expect a "laundry list" of "high marks" and "big awards" from the men and women he vowed to nurture when he took the 4th guidon in April 2010.
"This team ... has it in its DNA. It knows its standards, it knows its history and it knows what our nation expects in the future. That mentality is just kind of built in," he said. "So I'm surprised at moments but then I'm not surprised ... because I see the potential in our airmen. It's limitless. They can take on any task.
"So did I know all of the awards and all the accomplishments and all the challenges were coming down the line? No. I had no idea. But I knew that we were going to be victorious when they did come down."
And as he prepares to relinquish command -- Doherty expects to turn over the wing to Col. Jeannie Leavitt within the next six months -- he will continue to pat his airmen on the back for making his experience all he hoped it would be when he agreed to lead them.
"You thank all the people that have really made it that special. So I've got about six months to continue to thank (them) for all that they do -- for their service and their sacrifices," he said. "When they say that the 4th Fighter Wing is the crown jewel of the Air Force, it really is. It's not just a bumper sticker. There is no other wing that is doing what we're doing here.
"So it's easy for me to say that it doesn't get any better ... and I don't think there's anything out there better than this. I'm sure there are great opportunities out in front of me ... but I'm the luckiest man around right now."