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Wing members deploy to support presidential inauguration

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Approximately 60 members of the 123rd Airlift Wing were called to duty to support the 56th Presidential Inauguration in and around Washington, D.C., from Jan. 15 to 22.

The troops included explosive ordnance disposal experts, communications specialists, services personnel, aircrews and members of the wing's Contingency Response Group, or CRG.

The Airmen joined more than 10,000 fellow Guardsmen and women who provided communications, transportation, traffic control and medical and logistical support at the event.

"We were proud to be there, representing our state and being part of a historic event in our nation's history," said Capt. Ash Groves of the CRG, who deployed to Martin State Airport in Baltimore, Md.

"If something had gone wrong at the inauguration, with 2 million-plus people on the National Mall, the capabilities of local emergency responders and facilities would have been overwhelmed," he said.

The captain and more than a dozen members of the CRG joined with the wing's 123rd Airlift Control Flight to facilitate medical evacuations outside the city if needed. They worked with Delaware Airmen who stood up a Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility, active-duty Airmen who maintained a Critical Care Team, and a Disaster Medical Assistance Team that fell under the Department
of Health and Human Services.

For CRG troops, who will be among the first responders in any emergency situation, the experience was invaluable, Captain Groves said.

"Since 9/11, there are so many agencies. The more we get out and see how people operate, the more we understand about our piece of the puzzle," he said. "Talking about something and doing it on a white board or on e-mail is very different from getting out there and seeing the equipment and knowing what is expected when we hit the ground."

"It was a great opportunity for these guys to go out together and work in a real-world environment," agreed Col. Warren Hurst, CRG commander. "They volunteered on a very short notice and executed the deployment process for a high-visibility operation. It made us better as a team."

Senior Master Sgt. Lou Corner and Tech. Sgt. Lowery Woods, wing explosive ordnance disposal technicians, were called to provide EOD support for the U.S. Secret Service.

A veteran whose service includes duty in Iraq, Pakistan and Kuwait, Sergeant Corner and his fellow technician brought a unique level of experience to the table.

"I've done many EOD missions," Sergeant Corner said. "I'm always proud of doing a good job, and it was gratifying to be there to perform our mission when we were called to do so."

Senior Master Sgt. Roy Self was at the heart of the National Guard's response. Sergeant Self, a loadmaster, augmented the Airlift Control Flight functional area manager at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

In terms of command and control for the mission, he served at the very edge of the spear.

Elsewhere, a nine-person detachment of 123rd Services Flight members traveled by ground to the "Red Zone" near the National Mall to support 300 Soldiers. They used another military unit's Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen at a school gym to provide food services, according to Lt. Col. Matt Stone, 123rd Mission Support Group commander.

"They did a fantastic job," he said. "They set up using equipment they'd never used before and took great care of those Soldiers. They were sent to provide meals but ended up setting up an entire bed-down site. It was an amazing effort by traditional Guardsmen."

The Kentucky Airmen were joined by Kentucky Army National Guard communications support personnel and an aviation element consisting of 27 Soldiers and five UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

Dozens of additional Bluegrass Airmen remained vigilant at home station, supporting forward deployed members while standing ready to respond at a moment's notice.

"Because of the unique versatility of the Kentucky National Guard, we are able to provide proven assets you can't find anywhere else," said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky's adjutant general.

While the National Guard has a history of support dating back to the first presidency, contributions this year marked a new milestone for citizen Airmen and Soldiers.

"The scope is incredible," said Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "This is the largest footprint the National Guard has ever had for an inauguration."