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Looking back on 24 years at the 162nd

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The time has come for me to leave the 162nd Fighter Wing, my home for the past 24½ years. The wing and the Tucson community mean everything to Mary and me, and I know that at some point we'll be counting the days until we get to come home again.

My fini-flight Dec. 19 culminated approximately 4,100 flight hours in 162nd aircraft including the A-7, the C-26, and six different blocks of F-16s. I never had a serious emergency and only once or twice did I have to walk back to the Ops building without having flown, ground aborting the last available jet. Aircraft maintenance is a critical core competency of the Air National Guard. The experience and continuity of Guard maintenance professionals is unsurpassed in the world and I am incredibly fortunate to have benefited from the maintenance culture of the 162nd for so many years.

Over the past month I had the pleasure to get exposure to our newly modified Block 42s which are being brought up to Air Force standard and include such high tech gadgetry as the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and the Link 16 data link, as well as the capability to employ the latest air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. It's great that our fleet is getting this update so that training for our international partners will be the most relevant and advanced possible; so that any US pilots who might fly with us, either as students or as co-participants in exercises will see up to date aircraft. Our pilots will also be better prepared should they be tasked to augment a deploying unit.

I also got to fly a few missions with the test center, taking a look at the latest software capabilities upgrade for the Block 30 fleet that is due to hit the field in less than a year. Their work remains most critical to the Guard and Reserves as it will long into the future in other platforms.

During my four years as commander I was fortunate to get to work closer with people not involved in flying or fixing airplanes and it has been great seeing the same quality of work and the resultant recognition. The unbelievable improvement in our Medical Group's Health Services Inspection speaks of great people coming in and exercising leadership at every level that really worked. The Services flight was recognized as the best, as were our Firefighters, our Military Equal Opportunity, the International Military Student Office, and our newspaper. Most of these areas and many more across the support arena have been under intense pressure to reduce manpower, both full-time and traditional, with no corresponding reduction in workload. That pressure will not ease, but your contributions both to the war and to keeping the home mission going strong have been magnificent!

My career as a member of the 162nd has been more fulfilling than I could ever have imagined; more rewarding than I deserved. It is my most fervent hope that each and every one of you will achieve your goals in this great unit and that when you retire or move on, you will be proud of your service to our nation. You all deserve the best.