Monday, July 31, 2006

New Travis Commander Focuses on What's Important

New Travis Commander Focuses on What's Important
By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AFB - On the wall of Col. Steve Arquiette's office is a small flight plan map of New York, showing the prominent landmarks pilots can use to check their location.

One of the map's landmarks is the World Trade Center, now gone.

Arquiette, Travis Air Force Base's new commander, remembers flying over the site shortly before President Bush's visit there after it was cleared and cleaned up.

On another wall is a picture of his 7-year-old son, smiling broadly, missing one of his front teeth, and surrounded by a crowd of Air Force servicemembers.

"There is no more important a time than now to wear a uniform," Arquiette said. "I want to make sure those my son's age can enjoy the same benefits that we do now."

A native of rural upstate New York, Arquiette's father was a Marine who served in both Korea and Vietnam, and his brother also entered the Marine Corps.

Arquiette signed up with the Air Force because it promised him education and work in the electronics field.

The choice of service sat well with his father. Arquiette makes a point to pay homage to his father's service by calling him on the anniversary of the Marine Corps' founding "and he calls me when it is the Air Force's birthday."

Arquiette has been in the Air Force since 1979 when he enlisted and worked as weapons system radar technician on F-4 Phantom jets. He earned his commission in 1986 and spent the next six years flying KC-135 and KC-10 air refueling aircraft.

After several staff level assignments that included serving at Air Mobility Command, he stepped up to command the 99th Airlift Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Before coming to Travis, he served as vice commander for the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

Arquiette has accumulated 3,400 hours of flying time on aircraft that also include the C-37, C-20 and C-17.

The first C-17 is expected to arrive at Travis early next month, "a very good change" that will fit well into the base's mission of supporting American military and humanitarian efforts around the world, Arquiette said. Travis will eventually be home to 13 C-17s, with corresponding active-duty and Reserve squadrons.

The C-17's ability to land at smaller airfields than other air transports will extend the reach of Travis' contingency response wing to more remote and austere areas.

"That is not just for the warfighting mission, but for the humanitarian missions as well," Arquiette said, pointing to recent humanitarian support to tsunami-ravaged Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina.

"This adds another tangent to Travis," Arquiette said.

During his next two years commanding Travis, Arquiette will work hard to keep the four main pillars of Travis' success strong - the mission, the servicemembers, their families and the community.

"If you focus on and take care of those last three, the mission will take care of itself," Arquiette said.

Part of that means getting out of the office and talking to as many people as possible, talking about the importance of the base's mission and working with them to make Travis better.

Arquiette has met with several community leaders and has made appearances in events such as the recent Fourth of July parade, but he stated he needs to get out more to the community.

"I really appreciate the warmth of the community and the tremendous support we get. It is overwhelming," Arquiette said.

Arquiette said he is proud of leading so many award-winning units and servicemembers.

He faces the challenge of pushing an already high bar higher to help Travis servicemembers to respond faster, work smarter and contribute more to winning the war on terror.

That means planning for the long haul in the War on Terror, taking care of the mission, the people and the families "to make sure everyone is trained, not just on what we are doing, but why we are doing it."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

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