Ohio Air National Guard unit gets four-star thanks
Although the visit had been scheduled for earlier in the year, it had been delayed a short time because of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I've looked forward to this [visit], having had to cancel it for obvious reasons, I'm really thrilled to be here," he said.
General Handy said he wanted to thank the unit for all the hard work it's been doing. "The nice thing for me as the commander is I can point at units that stand out," he said. "I'm proud to single you out."
Wing leaders hosted the general on a whirlwind tour that lasted less than three hours. He arrived at the Ohio Air National Guard unit on a C-21 from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Maj. Gen. Paul Sullivan, Ohio assistant adjutant general for air, Col. Rich Green, 179th AW commander, Col. Mark Stephens, 179th vice commander and Chief Master Sgt. Bill Kohler, 179th command chief, met the plane and welcomed General Handy to the base.
"He wants to be familiar with our base, our leaders and our issues," Colonel Green said. "It is a great honor to have him here."
General Handy spent the majority of his time visiting various sections and people on base and taking some valuable time to spend at a wing town hall meeting.
For 30 minutes, more than 90 members of the unit had the opportunity to ask him questions dealing with everything from the C-130 inventory to the Air and Space Expeditionary Force to the Base Closure and Realignment Act; and the answers came straight from the top.
The general also reassured the audience about their role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, saying if it had not been for the political situation that prevented troops from staging out of Turkey, the unit would have been involved. "I know in my heart if you'd have been there it would have been spectacular."
"I felt like he has some compassion for us," said Chief Master Sgt. Steven Ray, component repair branch chief. "To the fact that we sat here ready to leave and had to pull back and stay at home while all other units went to war."
After the town hall meeting the general met with reporters from eight press outlets from across the state, telling media the "179th is one of the best units I have in all of AMC."
After the press conference the general was whisked off to a 179th C-130 Hercules to head back home. The general, a C-130 pilot himself, even flew the whole trip back to Scott.
As the buzz around the unit quieted down with the departure of the aircraft, the excitement and significance of the visit still lingered.
"As a young airman, it was an honor to be given the opportunity to have lunch with him," said Senior Airman Kelly Davis, personnel specialist. "When he was talking about us, he stated we were an outstanding unit, and it is good to hear that we're so highly thought of from someone at that level. It made me proud to be a part of this unit."