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Where were you 10 years ago?

Brig. Gen. Uptegraff has served as the wing commander of the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh since October 2006. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young)

Brig. Gen. Uptegraff has served as the wing commander of the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh since October 2006. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young)

PTITSBURGH -- What a terrific summer. As always, it seems to go by too fast, and before I realize it, we are into the fall. I applaud all of our Airmen who assisted with the National Wheelchair Veterans Games last month in Pittsburgh. You will read more about the event in this issue but I do want to express the tremendous feeling of support and care I felt when we assisted these outstanding veterans. These veterans have met their personal challenges with cheer and enthusiasm and we sure appreciated getting to know them.

Also this past month our 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron achieved outstanding success during its inspection. Folks, this is a highly professional, can-do organization under the command of Lt. Col. Joe Hensley that knows no bounds to further horizons. My hat is off to the team of Airmen and their spotless installation who deliver an atmosphere of pride as soon as one crosses the gated entrance. Congratulations!

Finally, I have to mention how busy we are in the background of flying aircraft worldwide. Lt. Col. Charles Perrott in our Mission Support Group has been focused on our unprecedented training operations with the Army National Guard in support of domestic operations. We even have an office on the base for our Army brothers to ensure we are plugged in and ready for the upcoming certification of our state's Homeland Response Force.

Although we dodged Hurricane Irene, Lt. Col. Steve Scheller in Operations found himself on duty that weekend as the on-scene base commander preparing to receive and bed down 498 Army Guardsmen from Indiana, Pa. who would be ready to move out. It never happened, but like our response to the air operations over Libya, we were prepared for action.

I hope each of you take a moment to reflect on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. I won't forget that day. I was in Washington, D.C. at a meeting with my fellow operations group commanders when the airliner hit the Pentagon. I will not forget the plume of angry black smoke blowing over the top of us and the acrid smell only a disaster can produce. I drove home that afternoon - dodging the congested and closed highways with several of my peers hoping to find a way home to Pittsburgh. We did.

Our KC-135s went into action that day crisscrossing the nation to refuel fighter aircraft so that national security could be preserved. It was a fast decade. The term "homeland" was borne and it is second nature to use it now. We stood up the alert lines which continue today. We mobilized in 2003 and went to war. We joined an Air Expeditionary Force that rotates mobilizations and deployments on a frequent basis. Will there ever be light at the end of the contingency operations? Perhaps the "Arab Spring" as this past Spring was coined, is a sign of hope for a better world with more freedom. In any case, we continue to wish the best for our Airmen at home and on the job overseas. Some of them are in a hostile environment and I pray they will return safe.

Our Wing is blessed to be in Western Pennsylvania where the call to arms is met with incredible speed and commitment. Be safe and I look forward to seeing you at our next drill.