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Col. Joel Westa
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Col. Joel Westa is the 5th Bomb Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sharida Bishop)
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Posted 9/8/2008   Updated 9/8/2008 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Joel Westa
5th Bomb Wing commander

9/8/2008 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The Confederate attacks came in waves, each more intense than the one before. The relentless Confederate assaults shredded the 20th Maine Infantry ranks, and the situation looked grim as ammunition began to run out. Soldiers ransacked the cartridge boxes of the wounded and dead strewn on the hillside, but there was not enough to continue for much longer and that supply soon ran out. 

The commander, Col. Joshua Chamberlain, had not only been leading his men, but closely observing the southern attacks as well. He formulated a final plan to defend the 20th Maine's part of the shrinking Union line. There was a brief lull in the fighting when the colonel called all of his officers quickly to a meeting and explained his proposal: the 20th Maine was going to make a charge! The words of the 20th Maine's brigade commander, Col. Strong Vincent, were probably ringing in his ears: "I place you here! This is the left of the Union line. You understand. You are to hold this ground at all costs!" 

With his men surrounding him, Colonel Chamberlain uttered one word: "BAYONETS!" The heroic charge in the face of overwhelming odds turned the battle in the 20th's favor, and ultimately saved the day for the Union at Gettysburg. Now, I am betting his men were hoping for a different plan of action and were shocked at the idea. Their training, faith in their leaders, and belief in the cause they were fighting for quickly overcame any hesitation, though, and they are remembered in history for their bravery. 

We Airmen at Minot AFB have been placed here in this outpost of freedom, and we have been tasked to hold this ground as well. We do that by accomplishing our mission with great precision and commitment to excellence every single day at every task placed before us ... and while many of us may be tired and worn out from this past year, now is the time when I need all of us to reach down, fix bayonets and make a stand. 

Minot AFB will return to glory -- to its rightful place in history. When faced with a difficult situation, I want leaders throughout our Air Force to ask: "How do they do that at Minot?" We must be the standard bearers for things done well every time all the time, leading the charge in every aspect of our mission here. Lead where you are -- and lead well!

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