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Total Force wing celebrates five years

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The Nation's premiere Total Force wing celebrated its fifth anniversary, Oct. 19.
 
The 116th Air Control Wing ceremony participants included Lt. Gen. David Poythress, Adjutant General for Georgia, Brig. Gen. Tom Lynn, U.S. Air Force Director of Aircraft and Munitions Maintenance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Installations and Mission support and a former 116 ACW commander; and Brig. Gen. Tom Moore, current 116 Air Control Wing Commander. 

The unit has excelled during the five years following its activation. The men and women of the first Total Force wing have received numerous awards from all echelons of the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. During this time the wing has received two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for meritorious service, from Oct 2002 to Aug 2004 and again from Aug 2004 to May 2006. 

"The 116th is unique (because) in all the Air Force, it is the only one like it," said Lt. Gen. Poythress. "This (wing) will never be replicated because it was so difficult to put it together and make it work." 

The success of the wing is a result of the dedication and professionalism of its personnel. The 116th ACW has maintained high tempo operations since its arrival on the Arabian Peninsula in January 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the first deployment for the wing. Airmen have logged over 30,000 combat flying hours since that time in OIF and Operation Enduring Freedom, providing integral support to ground forces in the Global War on Terrorism. In addition to combat operations the wing annually supports over 30 MAJCOM and local exercises. 

"It's important to remember everyone (in the 116th). We are special and we are doing good things," Brig. Gen. Tom Moore said. "I want to thank the families (of wing members). Most (members) are deploying two times per year and that is a lot of time away from family. It's important to point out what we are doing." 

The first commander of the unique wing still carries a lot of pride for the 116th. 

"You were the first and will always be the first." Brig. Gen. Lynn said. "You made history five years ago and continue to make history today. I was honored to serve along side of you and my time spent with you will always be among my most cherished memories. And you continue to make me proud every day. 

One of the most memorable portions of the ceremony was a firsthand account by Lt. Col. John Merrihew of a time the JSTARS aircraft helped save its Army brethren on the ground. Because most aspects of the JSTARS mission is classified stories of this nature are rarely told. 

"This is truly a joint platform," said the 138th Military Intelligence Company mission commander. "So much of what we do is classified (and) we are reluctant to tell stories on how we save lives. I hope the wing has many more (birthdays)."