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Pfiefer retires with more than 28 years’ service

Col. Kathryn Pfeifer (right), outgoing commander of the 123rd Mission Support Group, receives her Certificate of Retirement from retired Maj. Gen. Mark Kraus, former Air National Guard assistant to the commander, United States Air Forces Central and a former assistant adjutant general for Air, Kentucky National Guard, during a ceremony held in Pfeifer’s honor at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 7, 2017. Pfeifer is retiring after more than 28 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Col. Kathryn Pfeifer (right), outgoing commander of the 123rd Mission Support Group, receives her Certificate of Retirement from retired Maj. Gen. Mark Kraus, former Air National Guard assistant to the commander, United States Air Forces Central and a former assistant adjutant general for Air, Kentucky National Guard, during a ceremony held in Pfeifer’s honor at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 7, 2017. Pfeifer is retiring after more than 28 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Col. Kathryn C. Pfeifer retired with more than 28 years of honorable service to the United States Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard during a ceremony held here Jan. 7.

Presiding over the ceremony was retired Maj. Gen. Mark Kraus, former Air National Guard assistant to the commander of United States Air Forces Central Command and Kentucky’s former assistant adjutant general for Air.

“You don’t just wake up one morning to high rank and great responsibility,” said the general, who is also a former commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. “You earn it through hard work and the course of a career. Kathy has proven time and again at every level, with every turn, to have the maturity, leadership, competence and strategic vision — the drive to work, lead and finish as the accomplished officer she is today.

“In my 43 years of service, I can think of no finer officer to come through the ranks, to serve with greater honor and distinction,” he continued. “I am proud of you, honored to have served with you and I thank you on behalf of this great organization. We wish you the very best as this chapter of your life closes and another one opens.”

Pfeifer made history in the Kentucky Air National Guard by becoming the first female line officer to attain the rank of colonel. She most recently served as Mission Support Group commander, directing the operations of more than 400 Airmen who provide base fire protection, security and force protection, civil engineering, disaster preparedness, communications, personnel, dining, lodging and information technology services to the wing. Prior to that, Pfeifer served as director of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard.

Pfeifer graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University and received her commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1988.

She began her military career in the missile maintenance field, troubleshooting technical issues with intercontinental ballistic missiles and launch facilities. After four years, she transitioned into the civil engineering career field, filling various positions at different active-duty and Air National Guard wings, both in the United States and overseas, for the next 14 years.

In 2000, after a two-year break in service, she joined the Kentucky Air National Guard. Three years later, she was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and spent a tour of duty at Sather Air Base, Iraq, supporting civil engineering operations. Upon her return to the United States, Pfeifer became the 123rd Airlift Wing’s inspector general.

She followed the IG assignment by standing up the newly formed 123rd Force Support Squadron, merging the missions of the Military Personnel Flight and Services Flight under one guidon. Pfeifer then moved to Headquarters, where she advised the chief of staff on the formulation of plans, policies and procedures, and provided coordination and staff assistance during state emergencies. Pfeifer also reviewed projected personnel policy changes for impact on existing plans and programs. She finished her career leading the 123rd Mission Support Group, the wing’s largest and most diverse unit.

During her retirement ceremony, Kraus presented Pfeifer with the Meritorious Service Medal, The Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal and the Certificate of Retirement.

“Part of me wishes I could go back in time, when things cost a lot less and were much simpler,” Pfeifer said to the audience. “If I went back in time, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work alongside so many of you, to get to know you, not just as a fellow Guardsman, but as a friend.

“Thank you.”