Thursday, March 10, 2011

COMMENTARY>>ANG welcomes new commander Vilonia resident accepts command over state’s 2,000 Air National Guardsmen

ROBINSON MANUEVER TRAINING CENTER, Ark. – Brig. Gen. Travis D. “Dwight” Balch, of Vilonia, Ark., assumed command of the Arkansas Air National Guard in a ceremony here March 5, 2011. General Balch replaced Brig. Gen. Riley Porter, who commanded the state’s 2,000 Airmen the past five years.

“This is a great day for the Arkansas Guard,” said Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard and senior commander over both the state’s Army and Air National Guard forces.

“It’s a sad day for General Porter,” General Wofford added as he addressed over 300 in attendance at the ceremony. “Anytime an officer gives up a command you certainly face that with mixed emotions. But he has had a successful command, one that he should be proud of.”

General Wofford went on to talk about many of the challenges faced by the Arkansas Air National Guard during Porter’s tenure. During General Porter’s time in command, the men and women of the Arkansas Air Guard participated in multiple deployments in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. They supported the communities of Arkansas with state emergency response in the face of winter weather, tornados and flooding. They also mobilized intelligence personnel in response to hurricanes in the Gulf, the earthquake in Haiti, and the oil spill in the Gulf among other things.

“The Arkansas Air National Guard has stepped forward quickly and professional every time they’ve been called on,” said General Wofford. “They serve their communities, their state and their nation. And they do it well.”

Among many other challenges faced during General Porter’s tenure, the Base Realignment and Closure initiative of 2005 left the 188th Fighter Wing with the loss of the state’s F-16 mission. The wing maintains a flying mission today however, after winning the fight to gain its new mission aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

While General Porter moves on to take on his new role as commander of the state’s Air Coordination Group, General Wofford expressed his confidence in General Balch as the incoming commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard.

“You bring to the command an outstanding record of accomplishments and I’m confident that you will lead the Arkansas Air National Guard to even greater successes,” said General Wofford. “I’m confident that the Arkansas Air National Guard will respond to your leadership. I’m confident that you will continue to provide those outstanding leadership examples and the drive that is needed, as we continue to face the challenges of the 21st century.”

As commander of the Arkansas Air Guard, General Balch assumes responsibility its subordinate units to include the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith; The Marksmanship Training Unit – Air at the Robinson Maneuver Training Center; and the 189th Airlift Wing, 123rd Intelligence Squadron, and 154th Weather Flight at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

“If you look back in our history, you’ll see that there are not that many commanders of the Arkansas Air National Guard,” said General Balch, who formerly served as the commander of the 189th Airlift Wing from August 2003 to November 2007, and most recently served as the Air Guard’s chief of staff to General Porter. “To be included in that group is a phenomenal thing for me.

“All of these men were uniquely qualified to command and were respected leaders who laid a solid foundation for us today,” said General Balch. “My pledge to you is that I will continue to build on that foundation. I’m going to lead with integrity. I’m going to take care of the Airmen who serve.

“I’m blessed, I’m honored, and I’m humbled to have been chosen the commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard.”

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