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70th Wing Inactivates 691st ISR Group

Col. Christopher Gilmore, 691st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group commander, receives his final salute from service members during a relinquishment of command ceremony Aug. 6, 2014 at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill, England. Gilmore relinquished command of the 691st ISR Group to Col. Kevin Dixon, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander, during the ceremony.  The 691st ISRG is slated to inactivate later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

(Courtesy photo)

Col. Christopher Gilmore passes the 691st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group guidon to Col. Kevin Dixon, the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander, during a relinquishment of command ceremony Aug. 6, 2014 at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill, England. The 691st ISRG is slated to inactivate later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

(Courtesy photo)

ROYAL AIR FORCE MENWITH HILL, England -- The 691st ISR Group officially Inactivated Sept. 15 after contributing more than six years of collaborative efforts to the Signals-Intelligence Enterprise and with allied nations here.

"We were very proud to serve as a mission-integrated partner and overall site lead for Menwith Hill Station alongside our U.K. partners," said Col. Christopher Gilmore, 691st ISR Group commander. "Through the Air Force's tenure, Menwith Hill achieved new heights of operational success and vast improvements in the overall quality of life for the station's work force and their families. Every Airman who served in the 691st and its subordinate units can be proud of the legacy of excellence they left behind."

The 691st has been operating in Menwith Station since activating from the 70th ISR Wing's Detachment 1 in February of 2008. In that time the Group has been a key component of the Wing's Global-ISR mission, provided cryptologic liaison support to the U.K. Ministry of Defense's largest operations field site, as well as maintaining liaison activities for allied information operations in strategic and tactical operations.

"Menwith Hill has a great heritage," said Col Alexander Merz, 70th ISR Wing vice commander. "The Airmen who have served there over the last sixty-plus years have had a great impact on the security of the United States as well as our relationships with the U.K. and that's important to remember. It's easy to be upset about the lost of that station and our role we had there, but certainly we have record of that heritage and we will always remember what was done."

The inactivation is the result of changing landscapes and capabilities within the Wing's mission-focus areas explained Merz. Although the Wing's mission will remain the same, organization of the Wing and the methods used to perform this mission will adjust to evolving capabilities.

"There was a look at moving people around globally to be more efficient in how we do operations," said Merz. "As part of that analysis we decided that the 691st, among other places, could be greatly reduced in terms of the size and organizational structure. The Airmen who are part of that unit will be moved elsewhere across the SIGINT system to continue doing their jobs, but in a different location."

Although the 691st ISR Group is no longer operating out of Menwith Hill Station, the partnership fostered with the Royal Air Force will continue within dual missions. Likewise, the legacy of the 691st will be preserved as the future of its Airmen reflect an ability to adapt and a willingness to take on new challenges, explained Col. Christopher Gilmore, 691st ISR Group commander, in a farewell letter sent in preparation for the inactivation.

"The reason we're here in Yorkshire of course is our shared mission," said Gilmore. "We must continue to evolve our mission. History is full of bygone organizations, tremendous in their times, but made obsolete by their inability or unwillingness to adapt to changes in their operating environments. [Here], we have to continue to advance how we execute our traditional missions, but also adapt to meet the changing demands of our time. We have a strong culture of thinking creatively, and we must continue to empower innovation from fence line to fence line. You've routinely demonstrated that the ideas and energy to spur innovation resides in each of you."

"Remember, no matter where you sit, you are vital to our shared success," Gilmore said in closing. "Thank you for what you're doing to help move the big rocks that will make a positive difference in our station, our people, and our mission."

The 451st Intelligence Squadron, previously assigned to the 691st, realigned as a direct reporting unit under the 70th Wing. Currently, the squadron is projected to remain at Menwith Hill until next year.

"The organization at Menwith Hill Station is going away, the mission is not," said Merz. "Our mission has not changed and what is changing is the way we are going about our business. Although the [691st ISR Group] is going away, those activities will be done somewhere else by an Airman."

"We have a lot to look forward to in the future, Merz continued. "There's a lot of exciting things happening within our mission and across the Wing that will continue to change as we grow in technology and capability and as our Wing and World changes."