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Kentucky Air Guard's Contingency Response Group named the top CR unit in the Air National Guard

Staff Sgt. Brian Leach, aerial port ramp supervisor for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, pushes a pallet of cargo from a C-17 during Exercise Eagle Flag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 28, 2012. The unit, from Louisville, Ky., joined forces with the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening through March 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Staff Sgt. Brian Leach, an aerial port ramp supervisor from the Kentucky Air National Guard's123rd Contingency Response Group, pushes a pallet of cargo from a C-17 during Exercise Eagle Flag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 28, 2012. The Louisville, Ky., unit joined forces with the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Kentucky Air Guard Contingency Response Group, 31st Air Defense Artillery Army Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla. and 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., unload an M984 Wrecker from a 167th AW C-5 Galaxy on the Altus AFB flight line, Jan. 4, 2013. The units joined forces to deploy batteries of Patriot-air-defense systems, more than two million pounds of equipment and about 300 personnel from 3-2 Air Defense Artillery Battalion to Turkey in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland / Released)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group join with other Airmen and Soldiers to prepare Patriot Missile Battery equipment for transport to Turkey from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., on Jan. 4, 2013. The troops deployed more than two million pounds of equipment and about 300 personnel in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group has been named the Air National Guard Contingency Response Unit of the Year for 2012.

The group was chosen for the honor over six other contingency response units, including five airlift control flights, said Col. Mark Heiniger, commander of the 123rd CRG.

He credited the group's recent performance in the movement of a Patriot Missile Battery for helping win the award. Airmen from the 123rd deployed to Oklahoma in December to prepare the battery for shipment to Turkey, eventually loading 21 aircraft with more than 300 personnel and over two million pounds of equipment in six days.

"That was a tremendously important mission because it helped ensure the Turkish government's self-defense capabilities in response to the ongoing Syrian civil war," he said.

The group also set new standards of excellence last spring when it moved a record amount of cargo while becoming the first contingency response unit in the Air Guard to be verified by the U.S. Transportation Command as fully capable of operating a Joint Task Force-Port Opening -- a logistics hub that combines an Air Force Aerial Port with an Army trucking and distribution unit.

"Getting the USTRANSCOM verification took a lot of work and effort from all members of the unit," said Maj. Ashley Groves, director of operations. "We are very proud of that accomplishment.

"Getting recognition from the National Guard Bureau is validation that our unit's willingness and ability to grow is important," he continued. "It takes each member of our unit working above and beyond their normal duties to achieve this award."

Described as an "airbase in a box," the 123rd CRG is designed to be an early responder in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other major emergency.

It has all the personnel, training and equipment needed to deploy to a remote site, open a runway and establish airfield operations so aid can flow in.

The group, which was formally stood up just four years ago, is comprised of the 123rd Global Mobility Squadron and the 123rd Global Mobility Readiness Squadron. It provides personnel trained in command and control, aerial port operations, maintenance, security, logistics, fuels and intelligence.

Airmen from medical, finance, contracting, transportation, air operations and civil engineering are also elements of the award-winning group.

"The men and women in this unit are amazing," said Lt. Col. Dave Mounkes, deputy commander of the 123rd CRG. "We can call them at any hour, and they will respond immediately. When we get the call for assistance, our mandated response time is 36 hours, but our folks get it done in less than 24 hours."

It is this dedication and belief in the CRG mission that gained the attention of the National Guard Bureau.

"The 123rd CRG is a very strong group with a vast array of capabilities," said S. Scott Duke, chief of Airfield Operations Division at the NGB. "The airfield operations board was very pleased to select the unit and recommend that they compete at the national level for this prestigious award."