Friday, October 17, 2014

TOP STORY >> The story of the 19th is a story of Airmen

By 1st Lt. Amanda Porter
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“We truly stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, during his speech at the Air Force Memorial on Oct. 8, 2014, in Arlington, Va. 

The 19th AW was presented the James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle Award by the Air Force Historical Foundation for significant contributions to airpower history. 

It was a beautiful Air Force day at the memorial with blue skies and a cool October breeze. Retired Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, AFHF president, served as emcee for the ceremony and welcomed a myriad of distinguished visitors from retired general officers to community leaders to members of the Doolittle family. 

Retired Col. John P. Doolittle and Jonna Doolittle-Hoppes, son and granddaughter of Gen. Doolittle, sat in the front of the ceremony, making the historical day surreal for those in attendance. Doolittle-Hoppes gave brief remarks about her grandfather and the award’s significance.

Doolittle-Hoppes noted one unique trait of the Doolittle Award is that it’s given to a unit rather than an individual. She said her grandfather always said he could never have achieved what he did without the people around him. Closing her  remarks, she took part in the Air Force’s long-standing coining tradition, extending a coin to Rhatigan on behalf of the Doolittle Foundation.

Meyerrose then welcomed Rhatigan to the center of the memorial to accept the award on behalf of the wing. Named after aviation pioneer James H. Doolittle, this award was established to recognize a unit that has displayed bravery, determination, discipline, “esprit de corps” and superior management of joint operations in multiple conflicts.

“To be recognized with an award named after one of the most innovative and courageous Airmen in the history of flight is truly an honor,” said Rhatigan. “The story of the 19th is not about the aircraft or the missions they’ve accomplished. The story of the 19th is a story about Airmen. Airmen who are the foundation of our success, then and now.  And I am proud to share some of these Airmen’s stories with you today.”

As part of the 19th AW delegation, Rhatigan was joined by his command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Rhonda Buening and five exceptional performers from the wing – Master Sgt. Robbie Romines, Tech. Sgt. April Stanford, Staff Sgt. Joshua Harwood, Staff Sgt. Sarah Horton and Senior Airman Caryanne Russell. 

Keeping true to Team Little Rock history of community support, the commander was also joined by Jacksonville’s Mayor Gary Fletcher, Arkansas State Senators Eddie Joe Williams and Jane English, President and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce Mr. Jay Chesshir and Mr. Frank Thomas. Previous 19th AW Commander, Brig. Gen. Greg Otey and his wife Lisa were also in attendance. 

Rhatigan shared the significant achievement of each Airman to the wing as well as several other individual stories from the 19th AW’s history. 

“Whether we ride into combat in the Air Force’s newest C-130 or take on any other future mission, the Airmen of the 19th will do whatever it takes to answer our Nation’s call,” he said.

The ceremony only kickstarted the day for the AFHF and its guests. The celebrations continued into the evening with a banquet to honor several individuals and present their awards. The General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz Award was presented to retired Gen. Lloyd W. Newton. The Major General I. B. Holley Award was presented to retired Col. Walter J. Boyne.

It was a whirlwind of a day for the Airmen filled with encounters from every corner of airpower and aviation history. 

“Overall this experience gave me a good sense that what we do makes a difference in the mission,” said Russell. “I’ve already shared the experience with everyone at my office. They were very interested, and it helped them reconnect with the awesome history of the Air Force, especially at the 19th.”

Russell and her fellow Airmen were able to meet and speak with the Doolittle family and four original Tuskegee Airmen among the group of dignitaries at the ceremony and evening banquet. She said it was incredible to meet the history of the Air Force face-to-face.

“As a senior airman, it was neat to be able to interact with so many higher ranking officers,” said Russell. “Plus, they were looking to us for inspiration. To see the top ranking looking down at us for inspiration was something special.”

The 19th AW roots extend back before World War II, when it was one of the original 15 groups that made up U.S. Army Air Corps aviation. Formerly the 19th Bombardment Group, the unit launched the first offensive attack against Japanese forces in World War II despite having suffered heavy losses in the fighting following the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

In its 82 years of service, the 19th AW has fulfilled nearly every flying role in the Air Force, from seaplanes and biplane bombers to the advanced C-130J transport. In World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terror, the 19th AW has flown, fought and won with the motto: “In Alis Vincimus”—On wings we conquer!

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