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162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee gathers for fall banquet

Matt Brogen, an eight-year member of the 162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee, is all smiles after hearing his name drawn for a back-seat ride in an F-16. Each year at the wing’s Minuteman Committee banquet one ride is given to a lucky member of the unit’s community support organization which raises funds to assist the Jimmy Jet Foundation, Project ChalleNGe and Wright Flight among other charitable organizations. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Matt Brogen, an eight-year member of the 162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee, is all smiles after hearing his name drawn for a back-seat ride in an F-16. Each year at the wing’s Minuteman Committee banquet one ride is given to a lucky member of the unit’s community support organization which raises funds to assist the Jimmy Jet Foundation, Project ChalleNGe and Wright Flight among other charitable organizations. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The 162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee held its annual meeting and awards banquet here Sept. 26.

The committee, comprised of Southern Arizona community and business leaders, works to assist wing members and their families through fund raising events, and is a strong advocate of the Guard mission in Tucson.

Thirty-five Minutemen and their guests convened in the Desert Rose Dining facility to hear Guardsmen speak about current events and operations at the 162nd Fighter Wing.

Tim Amalong, the new committee president, served as host for the evening taking over the position from former president Izaro Urreiztieta just days prior.

"I feel good about taking on the role," said Amalong. "My goals as president are to double the membership of the Minuteman Committee, increase enthusiasm for the mission and to personally learn more about the Guard."

Brig. Gen. Rick Moisio, wing commander, greeted the committee and updated members on the current state of the wing and the road ahead for the unit. Guests also heard a presentation from Brig. Gen. Michael Colangelo, the Arizona Air National Guard commander, who described the varied missions and contributions of Air Guardsmen across the state to include the Predator mission at Davis-Monthan and the aerial refueling mission in Phoenix.

The Minuteman banquet was General Colangelo's first since assuming command of the state's air component in July.

"I don't think you are going to find anything like this committee anywhere else in the Guard," said General Colangelo. "I came to Arizona from the Connecticut Guard and there was a community support organization there, but nothing like this. I'm most impressed by how these folks think of the 162nd like it's their own."

Capt. Steve Weatherford, the wing's security forces squadron commander, received a standing ovation followed by words of gratitude from the audience after talking about the squadron's recent deployment to Baghdad International Airport.

Nineteen security forces members volunteered to deploy to Iraq from February to August where they secured the airport, escorted dignitaries and heads of state and trained Iraqi security forces.

"General Petraeus' plan is working and violence is decreasing," Captain Weatherford told the committee. "We are making a difference."

Col. Jose Salinas, vice wing commander, also spoke about his recent deployment as United States Central Command's Joint Operations Center director. He spent four months briefing daily operations to CENTCOM commanders and two months as a liaison officer in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"It was a great experience and I intend to use some of the lessons learned on this deployment here at the wing," said Colonel Salinas due to assume command of the 162nd in February 2009.

"What the men and women of this wing do for our country is amazing," said Amalong.

At the conclusion of the banquet, Chaplain (Maj.) Mike Martinez drew a member's name at random for a back-seat ride in an F-16.

He called out the name of Matt Brogen, an eight-year committee member.

"This is incredible! I told John Del Frari [Minuteman Golf Tournament organizer] that if I won the flight I would take over the golf tournament for him next year," said Brogen. "I've flown in a KC-135 as part of an ESGR Boss Lift and I've seen them refuel an F-16, so flying with the 162nd is going to be an exciting way to complete my flying experience with the Guard."

"There's nothing like it," said General Colangelo speaking of his own experience on an F-16 incentive ride. "It's a chance of a lifetime."

"The ride is our way of showing gratitude to the committee for all of its support for the wing and its families," General Moisio said, "and it's important for our community leaders to have a real understanding of our mission so they can speak from experience about our contributions to the defense of our country and state."