Friday, October 17, 2014

TOP STORY >> Doolittle Award goes to historic 19th AW

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 in Arlington, Va.

The Air Force Historical Foundation presented the James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle Award to the 19th AW for significant contributions to airpower history over 82 years.

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.

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 distinguished visitors, from retired generals 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 historic day special for those in attendance.

Doolittle-Hoppes gave brief remarks about her grandfather and the award’s significance.

She said the Doolittle Award is 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.

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.

“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.

The commander was also joined by Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, state Senators Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Brig. Gen. Greg Otey, former commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, and his wife, Lisa, also attended.

Rhatigan shared the accomplishments of each airman 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 19th AW roots extend back before the Second World War, when it was one of the original 15 groups in Army Air Corps aviation. Formerly the 19th Bombardment Group, the unit launched the first offensive 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.”

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 spoke with the Doolittle family and four original Tuskegee Airmen among the group of dignitaries at the ceremony and evening banquet. She said it was wonderful 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.”