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Thoughts, prayers with shooting victims as 162nd receives new commander

Col. Michael McGuire, right, receives the 162nd Fighter Wing flag from Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, the Arizona Air National Guard commander, Jan. 8 as a symbol of his assumption of command. The solemn ceremony focused greatly on the mornings tragic shooting involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several Tucson community members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Col. Michael McGuire, right, receives the 162nd Fighter Wing flag from Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, the Arizona Air National Guard commander, Jan. 8 as a symbol of his assumption of command. The solemn ceremony focused greatly on the morning’s tragic shooting involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several Tucson community members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Col. Michael McGuire, the new 162nd Fighter Wing commander, addresses the wing and guests at the assumption of command ceremony Jan. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Col. Michael McGuire, the new 162nd Fighter Wing commander, addresses the wing and guests at the assumption of command ceremony Jan. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Tech. Sgt. Douglas Catlin, 162nd Fighter Wing crew chief, unveils the name of the new wing commander on the wing’s flagship F-16 Fighting Falcon, Jan. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Tech. Sgt. Douglas Catlin, 162nd Fighter Wing crew chief, unveils the name of the new wing commander on the wing’s flagship F-16 Fighting Falcon, Jan. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Tech. Sgt. Chandra Smith sing’s ‘Amazing Grace’ at the 162nd Fighter Wing’s assumption of command ceremony in honor of the victims involved in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Tech. Sgt. Chandra Smith sing’s ‘Amazing Grace’ at the 162nd Fighter Wing’s assumption of command ceremony in honor of the victims involved in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- With a flourish of colors, sharp salutes, and a sea of Air Force uniforms in formation, Col. Michael McGuire took the reins as the new commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing in a somber ceremony Saturday afternoon.

What should have been a joyous occasion was overshadowed by news that U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others had been shot that morning during a local event held by the congresswoman at a Tucson shopping center. Several people died, several were wounded and Giffords was later reported in critical condition.

Approximately 1,200 wing members and guests filled an aircraft hangar on base after closely following the events unfold on the local news. Side by side, wing members stood quietly with their thoughts and prayers with the victims and their families.

Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, the Arizona Air National Guard commander, presided over the ceremony and asked for a moment of silence prior to making his comments.

"I had many more things to say, but they just don't seem that important right now," he said.

In a moment of reflection, he recounted an event in which he had the opportunity to spend time with the congresswoman during a recent border tour.

"In the nine hours I got to spend with the congresswoman and getting to know her, I can tell you that she represents everything that is great in this country. Her commitment to this wing and its' mission is the number one job that I will ask Colonel McGuire to continue to recapitalize on," he said.

He concluded his statements by highlighting the recent successes of the 162nd and asked members to maintain "the gold standard" the unit is known for in international training.

With the news heavy in the heart of the wing, Colonel McGuire's comments echoed those of the General in honoring the victims of the shooting. He said that the decision to continue with the ceremony was one that the congresswoman would have wanted.

"Today is like September 11th. That attitude that allowed us to respond that day is the kind of attitude we are going to use to approach all problems. There will be no failure, breakdown or change in mission. Irrespective to what happens to any of us, we will continue to advance. Congresswoman Giffords would have wanted it that way and I demand it. I think you all understand that and I look forward to serving with you," he said.

Colonel McGuire will serve as the 162nd Fighter Wing's 11th commanding officer since 1956. His responsibilities include more than 1,450 Arizona Air National Guardsmen, 66 F-16 Fighting Falcons and the wing's international pilot training mission - a responsibility he acknowledged as a "humbling opportunity" and one he could not have imagined months ago.

"My job is to do the best I can to train the men and women of this wing so that we can build deeper alliances with our partners overseas," said Colonel McGuire

He comes to the 162nd following a tour as the commander of the 214th Reconnaissance Group based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Prior to assuming command of the reconnaissance mission in February 2010, he served nine years with the wing. Now returning to command the 162nd, he has a vision for leading "the most talented Airmen of the Air National Guard."

"We live by a code of ethics, we have rules. So here are the rules, you tell me the truth and I will tell you the truth. You give me your best effort and I will do the same. That is all I can ask. I truly believe leadership is a gift that's given by those who follow. I hope I can earn your trust and respect as your leader," he said.