Cain began his command in June 2019 with a list of priorities and mission goals he wanted to accomplish as Eglin’s leader. He even shared them with the wing during his first commander’s call in the fall of that year. Those priorities and goals changed drastically due to outside forces during his time as commander.
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“The biggest accomplishments ended up being the ones that confronted us along the way,” Cain said.
The first confrontation came in March 2020 with COVID-19, an unprecedented, catastrophic event that changed everything, including Cain’s command.
“There is no playbook, and the previous plans did not fit into the virus that was attacking us,” he said of trying to formulate a response that worked best for Team Eglin. “We had to get creative and make decisions that may not be perfect, then refine those choices as we moved forward.”
Cain said he believes there will continue to be lasting impacts from the pandemic, not just in the virus itself but the stress and trauma of living and working through it. However, he marveled at the resiliency of Team Eglin’s personnel in the face of the crisis.
“They came together, communicated and found a way to get the mission done,” he said. “We kept the operation going.”
The wing’s main driver — the test mission — never stopped regardless of the health and safety protocols put in place. New weapons, aircraft and even new full-scale test events got their start at Eglin during the pandemic.
Another example of a global event that affected the military, Air Force and Eglin was the impact on the culture after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. The ripple effect from that incident led to conversations and changes throughout, including the stand-up of Eglin’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility office, one of the first in the Air Force.
“I feel the creation of that office will perhaps be the most significant long-standing accomplishment of my time here,” Cain said.
During the pandemic, the base was at minimum manning and teleworking was a new concept. Cain wanted a way to communicate to the base and community that was quick, easy to access and current with the newest information about COVID-19, base postures, etc. The solution was short videos posted to Eglin’s social media feeds that could keep Team Eglin informed. At the end of every video, Cain’s sign off was "stay safe, stay connected."
When asked what final words he’d like to impart to Team Eglin, Cain called upon that same phrase. He said he put a lot of thought into those words and they have a special meaning to him.
“There are similarities in everything we do as a military installation, and there’s always risk management involved. We have to protect and preserve our force and make good decisions,” he said. “So ‘stay safe’ contains a lot of meaning, not just in the pandemic, but its fundamental in everything we do here.”
Cain said that "stay connected" is about recapturing and continuing the military and Air Force culture and traditions after the pandemic and always.
“Staying connected means getting that culture and traditions back and keeping them vibrant and alive,” he said.
Cain leaves the 96th Test Wing for his new position at Air Force Materiel Command.
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Eglin change of command: Cain reflects on accomplishments as commander