By Capt. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Officer
/ Published August 21, 2008
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Louisville, Ky. -- Retired Brig. Gen. Edward Tonini, who served as a career public affairs officer in the Kentucky Air Guard before rising to become its chief of staff, will be the state's next adjutant general, Gov.-elect Steve Beshear announced at a news conference Nov. 28.
When he is sworn into office and promoted to major general shortly after midnight on Tuesday, General Tonini will become just the second Air Guardsman in Kentucky history to hold the post of adjutant general.
The only other bluesuiter to lead Kentucky's Army and Air National Guard forces was Maj. Gen. Richard L. Frymire, who held the post from 1971 to 1977.
General Tonini said he will be taking charge of a National Guard organization that is among the best in the nation.
"I will inherit a Kentucky National Guard that is in exceptionally good shape, with solid leadership and many nationally recognized best practices," he said. "I hope to learn from these practices and use creative approaches to build on our current success.
"I have always believed that mid-level enlisted Soldiers and Airmen are the heart and soul of the Guard. We have to do everything we can to provide the support that allows them to prosper. If leadership can meet their expectations, we are almost assured that the overall goals of the Guard will be realized.
"I believe excellence perpetuates more excellence. The record shows we have a terrific foundation to build on." General Tonini noted that the support of families and civilian employers is crucial to the Guard's success as Reservists are asked to deploy more often, and he will stress the continuation of efforts to foster strong relationships with those communities.
"I believe that our Soldiers' and Airmen's support systems -- their spouses, children, mothers and fathers, employers and communities -- need to be considered as part of the Guard family," he said.
"If we communicate effectively and provide them with support as family members, we'll be able to keep key members in the organization despite asking more from them then ever before."
General Tonini will succeed Army Maj. Gen. Donald T. Storm, whom he praised for four years of outstanding leadership during a time of steadily increasing operational demands on the National Guard.
"General Storm led the Kentucky National Guard during the most demanding period in history," he said. "During his tenure, Soldiers and Airmen were mobilized almost 11,000 times to answer the call to defend our nation in the Global War on Terror. More than 9,200 of these mobilizations resulted in Kentuckians being deployed overseas, often on their second and third tours.
"Their spectacular record in combat is a direct reflection of General Storm's inspiring leadership."
As Kentucky's 52nd adjutant general, General Tonini will command the 8,450 military members of the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard. He also will oversee the statewide Division of Emergency Management, the Capitol City Airport in Frankfort, Ky., a youth-development program at Fort Knox, Ky., and the Bluegrass Station Division, a former military depot in Avon, Ky., that is being converted for use as a light industrial park.
The cabinet-level post administers an annual budget of approximately $350 million to support operations at 54 armories, three major training sites and the Air National Guard air base at Louisville International Airport.
General Tonini brings a wealth of experience to the job, including a two-year tour of duty at the Pentagon as creator and director of the Your Guardians of Freedom program.
The program, which has been described as one of the most successful grass-roots outreach efforts in the history of the Department of Defense, automated a process by which unit commanders could send personalized letters of thanks to the family members and civilian employers of Guardsmen and Reservists who were called to active duty following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The mailings included posters, patches and lapel pins so parents, spouses and employers could show their support of military personnel engaged in the Global War on Terror.
The campaign, which General Tonini originated at the Air Guard level before taking it to Air Force Headquarters, inspired thousands of employers to write to the secretary of the Air Force and Air Force chief of staff, pledging support for their activated and deployed employees, General Tonini said.
It had such an impact on the morale and welfare of Airmen that General Tonini was recognized with a Distinguished Service Medal, the Air Force's highest non-combat honor.
General Tonini first joined the military in 1969 as an enlisted information technician for the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. He received a commission in 1970 and served as an information officer for the Louisville-based 165th Tactical Reconnaissance Group until 1972.
Aside from a brief tenure as a base fuels management officer, General Tonini spent the next 24 years in public affairs, eventually being named chief of public affairs at KyANG state headquarters.
In 1996, he became the first career public affairs officer in the Air National Guard to be named a state chief of staff, a post he held until his temporary retirement from the Kentucky Air Guard in November 2003.
In civilian life, General Tonini has spent his entire professional career working in radio and television program production, promotion and sales. Much of the time was spent in live television production, including credits with ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN, HBO and others. His experience ranges from presidential debates to heavyweight championship fights and college football bowl games. Most recently, General Tonini has been involved in the production of original programming as president and CEO of Louisville Productions. His company has produced five programs that enjoyed national distribution on PBS.