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More than stitches, cloth

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Cathy Barrington
  • 90th Operations Support Squadron operations officer
The nuclear mission we perform each day across the wing requires dedicated professionals who master their job and perform it perfectly. Accomplishing the mission is the primary focus, but it takes outstanding people to make it happen.

Hanging on the wall in the 90th Operations Support Squadron is a frame with 132 name patches. When an instructor missile combat crew commander finishes their assignment and prepares to move on, the tradition is to take his or her name patch and add it to the wall.

This tradition started in the mid-1990s. Why leave a name patch behind? There is a practical reason: the color scheme is unique to the 90th OSS and will no longer be needed once the member joins a new squadron. But there's another reason; leaving a name patch signifies the contribution the Airman made to the squadron and group. Teaching fellow missileers the intricacies of operating one of the world's most powerful weapon systems is both rewarding and demanding. The instructor experience develops officers as they become leaders for our Air Force. Leaving a name patch behind shows the Airman once belonged to the squadron and is a member of the long line of those who contributed to the nation's defense in a unique way.

While some may see stitches and cloth in the display, I see much more. Upon reading the names, there are some who are now retired, many who remain on active duty, some who joined the reserves or guard and some who are now civilians working in the corporate world. They served, or continue to serve, across our military in important roles at the Pentagon, United States Strategic Command, major command headquarters and in deployed locations. While life has taken each person in a different direction, the collection of name patches symbolizes a common bond - service to the 90th Operations Group as instructors.

The wall in the 90th OSS stands as a reminder of the many amazing professionals who have provided strategic deterrence for the United States and its allies throughout the years. One of these amazing professionals is Darin Loftis. His name patch is in the lower left corner of the display.

February 25, 2012, a gunman entered the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan and killed Air Force Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis and Army Maj. Robert Marchanti, II. Darin was memorialized in the news as a member of Air Force Special Operations Command working in Afghanistan as a specially trained U.S. service member skilled in Afghan and Pakistani culture and language. I remember Darin as a Peacekeeper missileer, a member of the 90th Operations Support Squadron and as a great person.

Darin had a kind smile and friendly nature which made him a perfect instructor. We worked in the scripts section together where he taught me the principles behind script writing. Later, Darin became an Emergency War Orders instructor responsible for teaching the entire crew force. His final assignment as a member of the 90th OSS was as an Emergency War Orders Planner, where he meticulously ensured proper targeting for 200 Minuteman and Peacekeeper ICBMs.

Darin was skilled at performing the nuclear mission, and his reputation lives on among those who knew him. The picture included with this article was sent to many of the people whose names are on the wall. They remarked about how "Darin was a great guy," "a good friend" and "someone you could always count on." Many were glad to see the display of name tags remained in the instructor area. They felt a sense of pride that their mark still remained in the 90th OSS years after they departed for other duties. The display represents the common bond of service to this valued and unique mission and the many wonderful people who performed it, especially Darin. Now when I look at the display, I am reminded of how each patch represents the significant personal and professional contributions each person made during their time in the 90th OSS.

It is important to recognize the role we play in each other's lives as we serve the nuclear mission. Darin probably never considered how he impacted so many people as a friend and instructor. Through his loss, we are reminded we leave behind more than physical evidence of our service. Each of us has an opportunity to impact the lives of those around us on a daily basis which will live on long after we hang our patches on the wall. It is a question worth asking: what kind of impression do I leave when someone reads my name? Darin set the perfect example for us all -- a legacy of mission success coupled with professionalism and respect for all. The world would benefit from a few more outstanding people like Darin.