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Flight of Freedom

November 2012 -- Last month we celebrated the accomplishments of our fellow Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen at the 24th annual Flight of Freedom awards ceremony. The Flight of Freedom is our annual salute to the members of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and their involvement in our Nation's defense. It's our opportunity to reflect upon unit accomplishments of the past year, honor distinguished members, and demonstrate our dedication, pride and patriotism. Outstanding Airmen are recognized for lifelong and significant contributions to our State, Country and the Air National Guard.

This year's Flight of Freedom was hosted by State Headquarters. This was the first time since the mid-1990s that it's been held at Fort Indiantown Gap. Typically, the hosting of the Flight of Freedom is rotated between Pennsylvania's three Wings. This year, due to preparations for upcoming inspections at the Wings, it was decided that State Headquarters would host the Flight of Freedom. The headquarters staff did an outstanding job of coordinating, planning and executing the event this year. I couldn't have been more proud of their dedication and effort, or more pleased with the outcome; it was first class.

This year, retired Maj. Gen. James Skiff, former Commander of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and retired Chief Master Sgt. Robert Thomas, former member of the 193d Special Operations Wing, were inducted into the Pennsylvania Air National Guard Hall of Fame. The highest honor the Pennsylvania Air National Guard can confer upon an individual is election to its Hall of Fame.

Col. Anthony Carrelli, former Commander of the 111th Fighter Wing and current Commander of the 171st Air Refueling Wing was awarded the Legion of Merit. In addition, Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Agnew of the 270th Engineering Installation Squadron  and Chief Master Sgt. Larry Leissner of the 111 FW were recognized for having been awarded Bronze Stars.

The 171 ARW was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for out flying every Air National Guard KC-135 Wing over the past two years, and for the Wing's historic contributions as lead unit, standing up the largest Air Refueling Wing in Europe during Operation Odyssey Dawn. The 193 SOW received the Air Force Flight Safety Award for outstanding mishap prevention; adding to their 50+ years and 203,367 flying hours without a Class A Mishap. In addition, the 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron was selected for the D. Ray Hardin Air Traffic Control Facility Award; the 270 EIS was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the 193 SOW was selected as the Air National Guard's nominee for the US Air Force's prestigious Vern Orr Award.

Our Pennsylvania Outstanding Airmen of the Year were also recognized; Senior Airman Lawrence Morris, of the 171 ARW/258 ATCS, Airman of the Year; Staff Sgt. Matthew Spittler, of the 193 SOW/148th Air Support Operations Squadron, Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year; Master Sgt. Jason Hummel, of the 193 SOW/271st Combat Communications Squadron, Senior NCO of the Year; Master Sgt. Richard Panzar, of the 193 SOW, First Sergeant of the Year, and Master Sgt. Matthew Kauffman, of State Headquarters, Base Honor Guard Member of the Year.

Many others were recognized as well. Congratulations to all on their awards, selection and recognition. They're all well deserved.