01/13/12 — Wells: 4th is first

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Wells: 4th is first

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 13, 2012 1:46 PM

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9th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells speaks to members of the 4th Fighter Wing this morning. Wells has been in Goldsboro for the last several days, touring Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and meeting local leaders.

From the cockpit of an F-16, a younger Lawrence Wells saw just why the F-15E Strike Eagle -- and the airmen who command them -- have been the choice of combatant commanders since the day the airframe was first introduced into the Air Force inventory.

It was 1994 and the officer was among those flying missions in support of Operation Southern Watch.

"The professionalism that I saw that day always had a lasting impact on me," he said.

This week, nearly 20 years later, Wells got another opportunity to see some of those fighters up close, as he made his first visit to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Only now, the major general is the man responsible for ensuring they are ready when the nation calls.

The 9th Air Force commander is expected to wrap up his several-day stint in Goldsboro early this afternoon -- a trip that brought him into contact with a "highly trained" force and the "wonderful people" who support the 4th Fighter Wing from outside the installation gates.

But now that he has, again, seen local airmen execute their mission firsthand, he will go back to South Carolina with even more confidence in a unit that has distinguished itself since its activation.

"They are the go-to force. Quite honestly, as our Air Force looks at what they bring to the fight -- the precision they bring with their munitions, the experience they bring with two people in the cockpit, the fact that the airplane is long-range and that it's got a highly sophisticated electronic warfare system ... everybody wants them," he said. "The combatant commanders are screaming for them ... because they are the ones who project that power that we find so awesomely incredible for the Air Force."

So it was no coincidence that the 4th was tapped as the wing to take on the first-ever, six-month Air Expeditionary Forces deployment in history.

"They are picked for the no-fail missions," Wells said. "When it's a no-fail mission that has to be done right, we always call on the 4th Fighter Wing to be there. ... We always call the best first."

It comes as no surprise to those who have never been stationed in Wayne County that the support system that exists outside the Seymour Johnson gates is unlike those seen in other military communities.

"It is critical and that's why we insist that part of our schedule always includes the downtown people," he said.

And as long as the airmen -- and the community that houses them -- continue to preserve that legacy created long ago, the 4th will always be on the tip of the spear.

"They talk about, 'Fourth but first,' and they talk about 'Follow me,'" Wells said. "(This is) definitely a wing that is leading things -- not only for our Air Force but here in the local community."


Rating: Command pilot

Flight hours: More than 2,500

Aircraft flown: T-37, T-38, F-16 A/B/C/D,

KC-10, U-2 and Global Hawk


Defense Superior Service Medal

Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters

Bronze Star Medal

Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters

Air Medal

Aerial Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster

Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster

Joint Meritorious Unit Award

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with oak leaf cluster

Combat Readiness Medal with oak leaf cluster

National Defense Service Medal with bronze star

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

Korea Defense Service Medal