MCLAUGHLIN AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, W.Va. --
2019 has been a big year for the 130th Airlift Wing. From inspections, change of commands, deployments, and supporting our local and State partnerships, we have met every challenge with excellence.
When I took command, I knew that the task before us would be challenging, however, as I said during the ceremony, that by focusing on readiness, respect for others, and being able to adapt to change that we could make this transition seamless.
In 2019, we've logged over 2,000 flying hours, on over 1,000 sorties, while hauling close to 360 tons of cargo and transported around 4,500 passengers. Additionally, our maintenance personnel sustained an exceptional 71 percent mission capability rate on our aircraft. Lastly, more than 150 airmen from throughout the wing returned home from deployments that spanned 19 countries and all seven continents.
To some, this may seem like arbitrary numbers; however, it is much more important than that, so let us take a closer look at some of our highlights.
In February, our CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP), a specialized medical detachment that provides a rapid medical capability, with the ability to treat chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear exposure in the event of an attack, deployed to Washington D.C. for the State of the Union address.
In April, more than 375 airmen traveled to Gulfport, Mississippi, for a mobility exercise that we called FLARE. FLARE provided us with the opportunity to simulate an actual deployment, in addition to providing an optimal training opportunity for new unit members. Although I wasn't the wing commander at the time, I served as the exercise commander, which gave me a prime seat to see your outstanding work in action. Your ability to adapt to change and work through issues was remarkable. A shining example of this was our fire department responding to a real-world fire during the exercise. By all accounts, FLARE was a resounding success.
In July, we supported the 24th World Scout Jamboree (WSJ) while simultaneously hosting Sentry Storm 19. The WSJ brought together more than 44,000 scouts from all over the world to West Virginia, while Sentry Storm brought together State and national partners to test our readiness for mass casualty and medical evacuation scenarios. Both events turned out to be a success, primarily due to your hard work.
November 9th brought great tragedy to our doorstep, as our chaplain, Lt. Col. Jack Miller, passed away suddenly. Jack was a mentor and a friend to many on this base. His pastoral heart touched many of us in a way that will be difficult to fill. Whether it was saving the flag during the change of command or telling the world that his mission was to stomp out "sin and evil," Jack's impact on this unit will difficult to replace. I want to thank his wife, Tina, and his children Sam and Olivia, for allowing us the privilege to get to know your husband and father.
Through this tragedy, the mission never wavered, as we went through an Air Mobility Command led Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI) the following week. The UEI showcased our exceptional commitment, work ethic, and effort, earning the unit a rating in the top 10 percent of our peers.
As the year closed, we were dealt another blow as the father of the West Virginia Air National Guard (WVANG), Brig. Gen. James Kemp McLaughlin departed this world a week after his 101st birthday.
McLaughlin, a Braxton County native, was a WWII pilot with the Eighth Air Force, or as it is more popularly known as the Mighty 8th. McLaughlin had 39 bombing missions such as the Battle of the Bulge, in addition to the most massive aerial battle in history, over a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany. Later in 1947, McLaughlin was named the first commander of the WVANG. McLaughlin's legacy will live on, and we will always be grateful for the sacrifices that he made.
As we go into the new year, let me once again say that It is my distinct honor to serve as your wing commander. I am sure that 2020 will bring new challenges, but I am convinced that together we will overcome and exceed all expectations. As challenges present themselves in the coming year, I want to encourage each of you to continue sharpening your skills, remain focused, be resilient, manage risk, remain flexible, and above all else, be respectful to one another. Our effectiveness as an organization will hinge on this. Now, as Jack Miller would say, "Go win one for the good guys" in 2020!