123rd Airlift Wing earns 18th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

  • Published
  • By Dale Greer
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing has earned its 18th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, a nearly unprecedented achievement that continues the wing’s record as the most decorated airlift unit in the Air National Guard and one of the most decorated wings in Air Force history.

“This most recent award reflects a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication by the 1,200 men and women who serve in the 123rd Airlift Wing,” said Brig. Gen. Warren Hurst, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, who presented the honor during a ceremony March 10 at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here.

“Their record of accomplishment continues a culture of excellence that can be traced to the wing’s founding in 1947 and builds on a legacy that is truly second to none. From global deployments in support of the war effort to extensive rescue and recovery operations following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the 123rd Airlift Wing continues to set the standard of performance at home and abroad.”

The 123rd Airlift Wing distinguished itself by exceptionally meritorious service from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2017, according to the award citation. The wing engaged in a full spectrum of missions during this period, mobilizing 679 Airmen to 38 locations in eight countries. Among those operations, the wing deployed 78 Airmen to Iraq to open a mission-critical air base, and it fielded numerous other Airmen to five different theaters in direct support of combat operations, controlling more than 900 combat sorties responsible for 300 enemy casualties.

Back home, the wing’s medical personnel executed a month-long training exercise in Western Kentucky that delivered no-cost medical care to thousands of underserved residents, performing 13,000 procedures and delivering 20,000 prescription eyeglasses with a market value of more than $1.5 million. When hurricane season hit with unexpected force the following year, the wing provided unprecedented disaster response over a continuous three-month period, deploying more than 180 personnel to Texas, Florida and the Caribbean in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Airmen from the wing’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron rescued 336 civilians stranded by flood waters in Texas and controlled 636 military aircraft in the Virgin Islands, facilitating the evacuation of 1,286 U.S. citizens.

Meanwhile, the wing’s 123rd Contingency Response Group established an aeromedical evacuation hub in Texas and an Intermediate Staging Base in Puerto Rico that supported 268 aircraft, processed 3,887 passengers and distributed more than 7 million pounds of food, water and humanitarian aid.

The wing’s aircrews also were heavily engaged in relief operations, airlifting hundreds of evacuees from St. Maarten and flying 152 sorties to transport humanitarian aid from Georgia to the Caribbean.

The fact that all these operations were accomplished while the wing also supported numerous training exercises in Canada, the Pacific, Africa and Europe — and passed a Unit Compliance Inspection with “flying colors” — is “simply remarkable,” said Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

“The Guard has changed over the last 20 years — we’re not the stay-at-home-and-only-use-in-emergency force we might have once been,” Mounkes told the audience. “We are blessed to be able to serve our nation in such an important job. We’re the defenders of our country, willing to do what it takes so that our citizens can remain free and live in safety.

“I can truly say to you that you are one of the best wings in the Air Force. No other unit comes close to what we do, day in and day out. So let’s celebrate this well-earned award, realize how good we are, and — going in eyes wide open — fully understand how much work it takes to accomplish and take care of our folks like the family that we are.

“You’re part of a great airlift wing, one of the absolute best in the United States Air Force.”