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Bittner gives final message as commander

  • Published
  • By Col. Sean Bittner
  • 413th Flight Test Group

To my beloved 413th Flight Test Team,

There really aren't enough words that could possibly do justice to my thoughts regarding the pride in my heart and my time in the 413th over the years, culminating as your Commander. As I sign off one last time, I will leave you with some final thoughts and will try to keep it short, but if you don't read to the end, know that I am so proud of each and every one of you and your families for your dedicated service, sacrifice, and limitless contributions to this organization, AFRC, and to this nation. I am truly humbled and honored each and every day to lead this great organization and it is certainly bittersweet that my time in the seat has ended. Be blessed, and God speed in all that you do. Cheers, Snag

...Ok, thanks for staying with me :)

As I reflect back on my time in the Air Force, a lot has changed since I was off to ROTC at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, as an 18-year-old, small town Midwestern eighties kid who knew nothing about the military or being a fighter pilot or an officer other than what I saw in various movies; ironically the 2 TOP GUN movies kind of bookended my career as well. I like to think I learned a lot about all of it over the years, but there are probably three things in my mind that seem to remain certain; 1) the price of freedom will always be way North of free, 2) your military time will go by incredibly fast, and 3) at some point, that time will end with a DD-214.

- The price of freedom will always be way North of free. I am so thankful for my time in uniform and opportunity to serve this great nation. It is far from perfect and so many events over the last 3 decades during my service kept me in uniform wanting to make a meaningful contribution to this country. Like so many other, my life and career were shaped by these events and by the thousands of heroes that gave the ultimate sacrifice for this nation including my best friend, squadron mates, several under my command at various levels, and most I never knew but have the utmost respect for. Each one of you continues to execute your oath, voluntarily serve, and put on a uniform every day to ensure the mission gets done. No matter what you do in uniform, it's incredibly special, and your vital contributions are critical to our Nation's security. Don't let the day to day events erode the significance of your service. I rarely go a day, especially in uniform, that someone doesn't thank me for my service. That's because you are part of a special 1% that serves in uniform for this country and it's recognized by so many that are appreciative of what you do, what you are willing to sacrifice, and what your families and loved ones endure so that all of our freedom is protected from those that threaten it, foreign or domestic.

- Your military time will go by incredibly fast. Honestly, after college and pilot training, the last 26 years have been an absolute blur. Shoot, I was at a retirement at the 514th recently, and I was surprised that one of the last members I knew during my time there was retiring, but then it dawned on me that it had been 15 years since I started there...time moves fast...I think like seeing your kids grow up, when you're so busy working hard and going in a million different directions, one minute you're changing diapers, the next, attending high school graduations. Take time to live in the precious moments, the present, enjoy the mission you do, become the master of your craft, and most importantly, take time to enjoy the incredible Americans you serve with. They are the best of this Nation from all different walks of life that voluntarily sign up for something bigger than themselves, one common bond and special goal to be part of an elite group of humans willing to have each other's back, fight and do what's required for the mission with whatever resources they are given or have to do without. I'd go out on a very thin limb any day of the week and almost guarantee you'll never be part of an organization that is like this, a beautiful and true melting pot of individuals cut from a patriotic cloth of red, white and blue, and of course, flight test orange!

- At some point, that time will end with a DD-214. Shoot, even IE is coming to an end, lol...Whether it's for retirement or separation from active service, you'll ultimately get a DD-214. When I got my first DD-214, it was pretty exciting actually because I was leaving AD for AFRC and the 413th FTG as a member of the 514 FLTS. Honestly, I didn't even know what an AGR/TR/ART was or even what it meant to be a Reservist, but I was excited for the journey that was ahead! 15 years later, I'll get my final DD-214 and this one is much more emotional and bittersweet for sure. It's been incredibly special to bookend my Reserve career in the 413th, especially being able to serve as your Commander. Watching this organization grow from its infancy shortly after the 413th stood up to where it is today is pretty darn special. Gaining the FSF, ASTS, and 1 ASF, and standing up multiple new MDSs along the way is something all that were and continue to be a part of is pretty awesome. Not even COVID could hinder our mission essential execution to get combat iron back to the warfighter. You simply found a way to bravely and safely get it done while mitigating the pandemic risks. Like Maj. Gen. Larson says for his 12,000 or so bosses, I too have had 400 bosses in the 413th and I hope that I have served my bosses well. This final DD-214 I receive for retirement will always be near and dear to my heart because of the 413th's extraordinary Americans doing extra ordinary service every day. Finally, I rest easy knowing that the 413th is in the great hands of a new 413 FTG/CC, Col. William Dewalt, outstanding DRU commanders and DOs, and the rest of the nearly 400 bosses they selflessly serve.

Snag out....