Commander’s Commentary: One Year in Command of the 53d Wing

  • Published
  • By Col Ryan Messer, 53d Wing Commander

Just over a year ago I was given the distinct honor of taking command of the 53d Wing, and since then, I’ve been humbled to witness the professionalism of our 2600 member team of uniformed and civilian members as we align to and advance our common purpose of providing tactical advantage to the warfighter at the speed of relevance. From inception, the 53d Wing has been recognized as the leader for providing this tactical advantage through operational test, tactics development, weapons systems evaluation, and optimization of combat systems and capabilities. I have seen first-hand each and every member of our team continue that proud heritage while accelerating our future. 

As stated in my command philosophy, I stand firm in my conviction that “our nation’s asymmetric advantage in any future conflict is not found in treasure or weaponry, but in the people who answer the call to service.” Over the past year, we invested heavily in our most precious resource: our people. From talent management process reform to deliberate development programs to a transparent, open meeting architecture where anyone can join the conversation and ensure their voice is heard, we have endeavored to build trust through accountable actions. The intent of every person-focused initiative is simple: to institutionalize an empowering culture that develops the leadership potential inside of each and every member of the 53d Wing, no matter their position or title. 

As members of one team, we derive our common purpose from executing the mission of the 53d Wing, and over the last year, our team has made historic strides in executing that mission. Together, our team has completely reorganized the Wing along major command functional lines; developed the blueprints for the Air Forces’ newest Wing focused on full spectrum operations; and supported the establishment of a test and evaluation organization for our Nation’s newest Service, the United States Space Force, among countless other achievements. 

The importance of all that the 53d Wing has accomplished is unmistakable when measured against the three priorities of one of our guiding documents: The National Defense Strategy. The 53d Wing Built a More Lethal Force by creating non-material solutions, developing cruise missile defense tactics, posturing for agile software cycles in weapons systems, and continuing enhancements to legacy platforms; we continue to build lethality through early operational test involvement on our Air Force’s newest programs such as ABMS, the HH-60W, the F-15EX and the B-21. Our team Strengthened Alliances through our partnered tests, weapons systems evaluations, and Large Force Test Events and with the establishment of the F-35 Australian, Canadian, United Kingdom Reprogramming Lab (ACURL). Finally, in addition to the 53d Wing internal initiatives, we drove Reform for Greater Performance and Affordability by completely redesigning both material and non-material test processes within the Air Force Test Enterprise. 

Since 1995, the 53d Wing has broken barriers in developing a more lethal and dynamic US Air Force.  Chief Apticar and I look forward to working alongside the remarkable men and women of the 53d Wing as we continue building this great legacy in the coming year.