A look back at 2021

  • Published
  • By 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
After a year of challenges from COVID-19 mitigation measures in 2020, 2021 presented the opportunity for Keesler to grow, connect and reach new heights together. 
Over the course of this year, the 81st Training Wing expanded the effectiveness of the training pipeline by introducing; the new self-paced modular cyber training, an expanded Learning Wi-Fi service, an escape room cyber course and the new space weather training course.
This summer also brought a change of leadership for the wing. Col. William Hunter, 81st TRW commander, assumed command and communicated his priorities to installation members and local community.
“Our mission is to develop the next generation of warfighters, but embedded in that is not just getting our folks through their technical training,” said Hunter. “We are focused on being brilliant at the basics, establishing good order and discipline. Being laser focused on getting after our priorities to continue to cultivate a warrior ethos across the installation.”
Keesler’s personnel showed pride in the installation when they came together to clean up the base after being impacted by Hurricane Ida. Base leadership also teamed up with Airmen in October for Keesler’s annual clean-up day.
This year’s introduction of new professional military education courses such as the First Term Officer’s Course and the Junior Enlisted Professional Enhancement Seminar shows Keesler’s focus on molding and developing Airmen at all levels. 
In response to COVID-19, the 81st Medical Group deployed several teams in support of Mississippi and Louisiana, trained robotic surgery using virtual reality technology and administered COVID-19 vaccinations for the installation.
As COVID-19 restrictions decreased, several events were able to take place for morale, quality of life and increasing the value of partnerships.
“We were able to open our base and allow the movement of travel while remaining safe and never stopping the mission,” said Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Esparza, 81st Training Wing command chief. “We have allowed our families and community partners to continue to be integral to Keesler’s success.”
Events such as the 81st Force Support Squadron’s Ghouls in the Park, military appreciation night with the Biloxi Shuckers, A Day at Keesler and honorary commanders program with local civic leaders, was able to bring Keesler and the local community closer as the base continued reopening. Keesler also hosted Gathering of the Torch, where the winners of the first iChallenge were announced. The iChallenge was created to help inspire personnel around AETC to create new and innovative ways of completing the Air Force mission. 
As Keesler prepares for 2022, Hunter intends on continuing to tackle the mission and reach new possibilities.
This continuous effort to train, develop and deliver focused driven warriors while building community partnerships is a critical piece in the goal of advancing force development in support of Air Education and Training Command.
“We made many strides this year, but we will look to engage in more opportunities going forward,” said Hunter. “We will build on our success, learn from our setbacks, continue to develop a healthy place to live, work and play and set the standard for installations across the Air Force.”
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