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The 2024 State of the Wing Address

  • Published
  • By Col. Raymond L. Hyland Jr.
First and foremost, “Thank You!”. This past year was terrific, and you are amazing! I am tremendously proud and humbled to be your Wing Commander. You make our mission a success. Over the past twelve months, we worked our tails off, and then we worked some more. We took a few breaks, but collectively it was an extremely productive 75th year for the base.

Addressing Issues:

A visit to the Air National Guard Reserve Center for the PA State of the State, resulted in the addition of a few new items on our “To Do” list. None bigger than the necessity to fly our training hours. We took the advice and stepped up our flying hours during FY 23. Notably, the Wing participated in a once in a lifetime flying event when our KC-135 refueled an EC-130 from the 193rd Airlift Wing all over unique Pennsylvania landmarks to celebrate 100 years of Aerial Refueling on Jun 27th.

The Maintenance Group started the year off in the hole. Some of the jets in our fleet were down due to a tail pin issue that caused them to be deemed, “unflyable”. This, coupled with autopilot issues and other restrictions, made flying and maintaining very difficult. As true professionals, the MXG pushed through and replaced all the faulty pins themselves once were available. Great work!


A healthy handful of our team participated in the Indo-Pacific theater security package in Guam and many more areas in the Pacific. Your performance was exceptional, and I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and hard work on the deployment.

Additionally, 13 of our Airmen from the Security Forces Squadron and Weather Flight spent the holiday season deployed to the CENTCOM area of responsibility for Reserve Component Period (RCP) 3. Reports have indicated they are doing well. We wish them a safe and productive remainder of their deployment and we also wish to send our gratitude to their families.

Crushing it:

Nearly 30 Airmen assigned to our team participated in the Homeland Response Force (HRF) evaluation at Fort Indiantown Gap this past summer. Eleven members from the Civil Engineer Squadron, Chaplains Office, Logistics Readiness Squadron, Medical Group, and Weather Flight joined with their Army counterparts to create the Homeland Response Force Command and Control (C2) element. This team provided coordination to synchronize force response operations. C2 was supported by six Airmen assigned to our Communication Squadron who provided full spectrum cyber and radio communication support while utilizing Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) equipment. Force Support Squadron provided an additional 11 Airmen for the Fatality Search and Recovery Team (FSRT), whose mission was the expeditious and dignified removal of fatalities throughout the area of operations. The results were extraordinary, with zero deficiencies noted by inspectors. Brigadier General Michael Regan, Deputy Adjutant General Air, Pennsylvania National Guard, reached out to me directly to tip his cap to our HRF team, “Please pass my congratulations and sincere thanks to all who participated in the HRF eval (evaluation). The results were outstanding across the board!”

Furthermore, 12 Airmen assigned to the Medical Group teamed up with nearly 280 other joint service members from the USAF, USAFRC, USN, USNR, USMCR, USAR and USPHS in support of the Healthy Tennesseans Innovative Readiness Training program. Led by members from the 101st ANG, this program completed over 26,000 hours of no-cost medical care to the residence of Rhea and Bledsoe, Tennessee counties. The hands-on training enabled 23,095 procedures for over 2,600 patients saving the communities and families nearly $1.7 million dollars in healthcare costs. This real-world opportunity provides invaluable training that cannot be simulated in an exercise. In fact, so good that we are going to do it again with a larger group in Alaska in 2024.

Crushing it does not describe the entire story of 2023, the truth is, we worked our tails off last year! During an increasingly difficult time under “do more with less”, I asked you for even more. You performed three readiness exercises in one year, and you knocked it out of the park. I pushed you as hard as I could, because I want you to be ready for the next fight. You demonstrated our ability to perform over 100 assigned Air Force mission essential tasks. You stepped up and continued our normal ANG mission while the majority of our assigned personnel participated in the March Readiness Exercises (RE), Iron Keystone ’23, and Steel Resolve. Simply put, you killed it! Rather than taking a break from the exercises, this became our year to lean forward, get readiness training done, make mistakes, and learn from them. To say that I am pleased with the results would be a severe understatement. I am ecstatic with the amount of training, knowledge, and repetitions accomplished. Going into 2024, I am confident that our upcoming statewide RE, Iron Keystone ’24, combined with our Air Mobility Command Readiness Evaluation, Steel Forge, will be another opportunity for the Airmen of the 171st ARW to shine and knock the socks off AMC’s Inspector General.

75th Anniversary:

I know you all worked hard this year; but we did have some opportunities to relax as well. June was a huge month for us here at the 171st. The wing open house was held over June drill to kick off the summer. It was exciting to have all the families and retirees come to the base and learn a little about what we do every day and how our mission has changed through the years.

Following the open house, the wing hosted a 75th Anniversary Ball with resounding success. The formal event welcomed 615 attendees celebrating a momentous milestone in the history of the Pittsburgh ANG installation. The event showcased a remarkable sense of camaraderie and pride as members gathered to commemorate the installations achievements and contributions; as well as created lasting memories for all in attendance. It was a wonderful evening, and I cannot thank you enough for all of the members who help orchestrate the event and to everyone who attended.

Finally, the 2nd Annual 171st ARW retiree luncheon returned this December bringing back 155 retirees for food, fun and memories. It provided a relaxed environment for retired members to reconnect, share experiences and celebrate the enduring bonds forged during their service. We are looking forward to continuing this event in the future and molding the retiree luncheon into a 171st ARW tradition.

Opening the Gates & Looking Ahead:

Having reopened the installation to our retiree community post COVID, the wing also hosted several prominent distinguished visitors this year. We warmly welcomed Col. Ananas Matutis, Lithuanian Air Force Commander in March. Lithuania is our State Partnership country, and this event marked the 30th year of that special relationship with the state of Pennsylvania. In April, we welcomed Mr. Devin L. Cate, Executive Director of the Air National Guard, to the base in conjunction with the first-ever Air Reserve Component (ARC) ATHENA Event. This conference was co-hosted by the 171st and the 911th (Airlift Wing Air Force Reserves) and was specifically designed to bring awareness to women’s issues within the military, specifically the ARC. Throughout the rest of the year, several federal and state level Congressional leaders like U.S. Representative Chris Deluzio and Lt. Governor Austin Davis made multiple base visits where the CODEL (Congressional Delegations) increased their awareness of the importance of air refueling within the National Defense Strategy and the domestic capabilities our unit can bring for state response.

Several other tours were accomplished for various outside agencies including the Pittsburgh Tech. Council, ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) and JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) detachments, and the U.S. National Elite Baseball Team. These events showcased our capabilities to the community and helped us progress towards our number one state priority, recruiting and retention. I will begin with the latter because retention is terrific for the 171st. We closed out the year with a 92.41% retention rate, which is the best in the state among the three wings. Thank you for taking care of each other and for taking care of your people. However, recruiting has continued to be challenging. The aftereffects of the pandemic and the inclinations of the newest generation continue to impede our progress. That said, we were happy to welcome a large handful of new Airmen to our team. Moving forward, we have added five recruiters and temp AGRs (Active, Guard, Reserve Airmen serve full-time and enjoy the same benefits as active-duty Airman.) to attempt to bolster our recruitment efforts in 2024. In addition to everything that you have been tasked, I am asking for more. The wing has a plethora of vacancies, and we need all of you to double down your efforts to help recruit. We will not climb out of the hole on the backs of recruiting team alone. If you have the availability, days are available to help, please reach out to the recruiting team for more details.


Team 171st, that was a hell of a year! Thank you for making our 75th Anniversary Year one to remember. As we look ahead into 2024 and beyond, one thing is certain, there will be change. A-staff, a new Unit Manning Document, Air Force wide leveling across all wings, enlisted grade reviews, RTIC, and peer competition are just a few challenges that await. I am confident that no matter what type of change, challenge, or Operation; the Steel Airmen of the 171st Air Refueling Wing will be ready to kick ass when the time comes.


(No One Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas)