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People enrich mission support commander's tour

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Col. Steven Rothstein smiles in his office after reminiscing over his four-year tour as the 108th Mission Support Group commander at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 6, 2021. Rothstein will become the Plans and Integration (NGB/A1X) Division Chief with the Air National Guard Readiness Center in Maryland in May 2021. He will serve as the principle advisor to the NGB/A1 on human capital strategic, transformational, legislative and policy initiatives. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Donna T. Jeffries)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --

In the hallway leading to the executive office of the 108th Mission Support Group commander hangs a nondescript corkboard full of index cards pinned by multi-colored tacks. A notice on the board invites unit members to tell something about themselves that is not already known. Those handwritten cards reflect how Col. Steven Rothstein, outgoing commander of the 108th Mission Support Group, views his leadership position.

It started and ends with people.

“Without a doubt leading the members of the mission support group was the most rewarding thing,” about his time spent here, said Rothstein who officially relinquishes command of the New Jersey Air National Guard group in May 2021. “I try to deal with people as a whole person. While some can completely separate their military life from who they are at home, most don’t. I embrace the whole person concept.”

That perspective led to personal and professional growth and success during his four-year command tour, and extended beyond the 108th MSG to impact the entire 108th Wing. The mission support group is often thought to be the foundation of any wing as it encompasses the personnel and support squadrons such as force support, civil engineering, security forces, communication, logistic readiness and contracting.

Rothstein recounts how he strove to foster a culture of teamwork within the group and the results speak for itself through mission accomplishments.

Meeting readiness requirements posed to be the most challenging, especially when I first came on board in 2017 in the midst of the wing preparing about 150 members to deploy downrange, said Rothstein.

To-date with numerous deployments, natural disasters, national emergencies and now a worldwide pandemic under his belt, he says he is proud of the wing and MSG’s ability to meet evolving requirements for both federal and state missions.

“The current Ops [operations] tempo is beyond what anyone signed up for and the amount of tasking we’ve undertaken has induced mission fatigue,” said Rothstein. “I didn’t think we would, but we were able to meet the challenge! Every single day I am amazed by the dedication and commitment of the people in the wing.”

Just shy of 35 years of military service, Rothstein believes he had the best job because he “commanded commanders.” His position required him to talk to other commanders and make sure they’ve thought of different angles in respect to handling sensitive human resource issues. While he rarely did not have to have hard conversations with unit members directly, he describes that he has interfaced with them through their commanders.

“I didn’t appreciate how much of the work day Colonel Rothstein spent talking to commanders about issues they were working on until he was not around to do it,” said Lt. Col. Eric Balint, deputy commander, 108th MSG.

If you are not solving problems you essentially are not a leader is a well-used statement attributed to former Secretary of State, retired Gen. Colin L. Powell. This sentiment holds merit for Rothstein’s legacy. To ensure other leaders gained such wisdom, Rothstein also started a book club where MSG leaders read books together for professional development.

As he says his goodbyes Rothstein leaves a message for both the incoming 108th MSG commander, Col. Bernadette Maldonado, and for the entire wing.

To Maldonado he informs “she is inheriting a great team with a wealth of experience” to draw from and to wing members, he urges them to “remember the why.”

It is easy to forget why you signed up to serve when dealing with the everyday grind, demands of drill and everything else, said Rothstein.  We all have personal whys for joining; for some it’s education and for others it’s for the money or benefits. Don’t forget you volunteered to serve your country and not everyone has done that, said Rothstein.

“Everyone who puts on the uniform deserves respect," he concluded.

Rothstein accepted the position of Plans and Integration (NGB/A1X) Division Chief at the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. He will serve as the principle advisor to the NGB/A1 on human capital strategic, transformational, legislative and policy initiatives.