RAF MILDENHALL, England --
The New Year brings new resolutions for many, and the 100th Air Refueling Wing has a new vision statement, mission statement and priorities to reflect the commander’s goals for a new and focused direction.
Col. Christopher Amrhein, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander; Col. David Lenderman, 100th Air Refueling Wing vice commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Stanley, 100th ARW command chief, have outlined the wing’s new way forward, something they had discussed thoroughly with the rest of wing leadership before coming to a decision.
Previously serving as the vice commander at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Amrhein drew from his experiences of being forward-deployed and ready at a moment’s notice. With that, the mission and strategic context of the theater gave him a baseline for his plan taking command at RAF Mildenhall.
“We had KC-135 Stratotankers, a special operations group and a very similar reconnaissance construct as we do here,” he said. “I would argue the two strategic chess games being played by the United States alongside its allies for the next 30 to 50 years are in the European theater and the Pacific theater.”
Amrhein said “readiness” has been consistently brought up during his first three months of being in command of the 100th ARW.
“After taking command here, I had the opportunity to sit down with U.S. Air Forces in Europe leadership to see what was on their mind for the next 18 to 24 months,” he said. “As we talked, the word that kept coming up was ‘readiness,’ so I’m mirroring that with the secretary of the Air Force and with our chief’s priorities.”
Upon arrival, Amrhein received rave reviews of the wing’s performance as a whole including RAF Mildenhall receiving a “Highly Effective” rating during the last unit effectiveness inspection.
“During the first three months, the chief and I sat down and talked about areas to improve upon in a wing that is high performing. Again, the importance of readiness kept coming up -- not just when generating our airplanes to go fly a mission, but asking ourselves if the wing is completely prepared for the full spectrum that can happen here in EUCOM and AFRICOM theaters. We are in a forward-deployed location, so that really shaped the vision, the mission and ultimately, the priorities.”
Vision: Extending Reach and Deterrence through Warrior-Minded Airmen
“The vision statement is focused on readiness, and a huge part of that is the deterrent value it brings,” Amrhein said. “If we can readily demonstrate to any potential adversaries that we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice, then that has a deterrent effect, which is very important in this theater.”
Mission: Provide a Ready Force and Strategic Forward Base, Projecting Airpower through Unrivaled Air Refueling Across Europe and Africa
Being the only Department of Defense air refueling capability assigned to the U.S. European Command theater, the wing mission is focused on understanding that last-minute missions will pop up, and missions can happen beyond the scope of the European and African theater.
“I really wanted to get back to the heart of why the 100th ARW exists and why we specifically exist within the EUCOM and AFRICOM theaters,” he said. “When General Wolters, acting as the theater Joint Force Air Component commander, picks up the phone and says, ‘I need air refueling capability,’ it’s under that charge – taking care of mission sets that are within this theater. I want to take the wing and propel it farther than it has already hit its heights on.”
Priorities: ‘Airmen, Readiness, Culture … SquareD Away!’
“Airmen are our number one priority in this wing,” the commander said. “That includes making sure our Airmen and families are cared for. It’s beyond being the technical expert; we need to be able to develop Airmen for leadership throughout their time in the Air Force. There’s a focus on professionalism as well -- we want to embrace that warrior ethos and continue to develop warriors.”
Taking care of Airmen, ensuring they’re properly trained and brought up professionally, will entail getting the mission done appropriately.
Though Amrhein is pleased with the sponsorship program currently in place, he’s looking to revamp it during his tenure at RAF Mildenhall.
“For many new Airmen, this is their first assignment and you’re setting the tone for their entire Air Force life,” he said. “Those coming straight out of technical training have been waiting, training and studying for a long time. Once they’re at their operational unit, I think it’s critical we set that foundation for them from day one, preferably even before they’re here.”
“My aim is to make sure we’re as ready as we can be,” he said. “Every Airmen needs to be ready in this theater at any hour, every single day.”
Base exercises are planned to shift within the next 18 to 24 months, to reflect a flight tonight posture.
“We’re going to do some things in our exercises that we haven’t practiced as much in a while. That’s not to say we don’t have a satisfactory capability to perform all spectrum of operations, but I really want to get out there and hone it in a less-than-permissive environment, or a degraded environment.”
As well as being tested during exercises to ensure they are ready at a moment’s notice, Airmen will be expected to perform as if they were “deployed in place.” Amrhein explained that unlike those stationed in the continental U.S., where bases are trained and equipped to deploy and execute the mission, the 100th ARW is already within that deployed location, providing air refueling capabilities when called upon.
“We’re the only refueling game in town,” he said. “It’s important to understand that you truly are deployed in place. It’s awesome that you get to bring your families here, and it’s awesome that you have the opportunity to get out and about in this theater. But whatever time it is when our Airmen go to work as a 24/7, 365 operational wing, they must understand that this theater could change rapidly at any time.”
Culture was key to the priorities of previous leadership here and is still just as important to new wing leadership, who plan to keep it firmly in mind when writing the next chapter for the Bloody Hundredth. While the base is scheduled to close in 2023, Airmen are still expected to continue building positive relationships and be good neighbors to those within and around the community.
“It’s very important that we maintain our relationship with the local community, never forget the legacy and the shoulders of the giants who came before us, and build upon that,” he said. “Airmen have the ability every single day to positively influence and impact our relationships with our NATO allies in the United Kingdom. I think it’s very important to keep building those partnerships, understand their importance and continue to instill the sense of pride of who we are as the Bloody Hundredth.”
According to Amrhein, when Airmen and families are taken care of, the mission and vision fall into place.
“At the end of the day, you rely on the Airmen and civilians in the wing; we have to maintain the strong relationship with our RAF partners and trust the commanders and chiefs here to get the mission done,” Amrhein said. “They have done, and continue to do, a fantastic job. I hope it resonates with Airmen and provides them a sense of pride being here in the Bloody Hundredth, its mission and its legacy.”