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Guard Chief visits, thanks 1st AF members

  • Published
  • By Leslie Brown
  • 1st Air Force Public Affairs
With a heartfelt thanks to the men and women for their support of the homeland defense mission, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau addressed members of the Continental US NORAD Region-1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) here May 2.

Discussing past successes and a bright future for the Guard as a force, Gen. Frank J. Grass expressed gratitude for 1st AF and its support of several high-profile missions during his tenure as deputy commander at U.S. Northern Command.

"Thank you for supporting missions that protect the skies over America," he said. "You are an amazing organization."

He talked about the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and the Haiti Earthquake as two examples of how 1st AF stepped in and organized the chaotic air traffic. He said he didn't have the opportunity during his time there to come and thank 1st AF personally, so he took the opportunity during this visit.

"There were eight near misses above the oil spill before 1st AF took over the airspace," he said. "You took various feeds and put them together so we could monitor where the oil slicks were."

He also mentioned the vital importance of the 601st Air and Space Operations Center's Regional Air Movement Control Center work during the early days of the Haiti earthquake.

"In the first hours after the earthquake, you were ready to send Southern Command anything they needed," he said. "When they found they had 1,400 flights waiting to get in there, they called 1st Air Force and the RAMCC . It was this organization that really impressed me. You were essential in evacuating 17,000 American citizens from Haiti as well."

He also explained the aggressive work in growing leadership through the Guard channels and the success with the Chief of the Guard having a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast, I understood the needs of the adjutant generals of the affected states because I grew up in the Guard system," he said , recalling his own participation in sandbagging operations as a young soldier when weather struck just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1972.

Besides accolades for all of the hard work, he also spoke frankly about the future of the military as a whole and recognized while there are sometimes tensions between state and federal assets, resolutions were always achieved.

"The Guard has a great future of supporting the Army and Air Force. If we can't fix the budget control act, the military will change," he said. "We look to the active-duty Army and Air Force for much of the Guard support, especially for training and equipment."

He took questions from members as well. When asked about the future of the Guard he was very optimistic.

"As the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, get further and further away, people lose sight of the fact there are people who still want to get in a plane and try to kill us," he said. "But with our great partnerships with the FAA and other agencies we have prevented this. We know we have to continue to invest on how we do this, how we protect the homeland."

The general also took the time during his visit to recognize outstanding performers from AFNORTH and the 601st AOC. Within AFNORTH, he presented a coin each to: Chief Master Sgt. Tammy Mead, Operations Directorate; Senior Master Sgt. Tracy Vickery, Manpower Personnel and Services Directorate; Master Sgt. Mickie Reinhart-Newman, Air Forces National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate; Master Sgt. Martha Dunning, Assessments, Lessons Learned and Exercises Directorate; A1C Charlott Lemond, Manpower, Personnel and Services. From the 601st AOC, coin recipients were: Ed Williams, Combat Plans Division; Senior Master Sgt. Michael Haynes, 101 st Air Operations Group; Master Sgt. Toni Owens, Combat Operations Division; Tech. Sgt. Corey Gardner, 101st AOG and Staff Sgt. Shaun Cantrell, 101st Air Communications Squadron.