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123rd makes history with 'excellent' rating in first homeland-defense ORI

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing depart the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on May 18, 2010 en route to Gulfport, Miss., for an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. The ORI was the first ever to test a unit's capabilities in defense of the homeland. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)(Released)(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)(Released)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing depart the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on May 18, 2010 en route to Gulfport, Miss., for an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. The ORI was the first ever to test a unit's capabilities in defense of the homeland. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing arrive at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 18, 2010. The wing and two other units were being evaluated by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General as part of the first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)(Released)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing arrive at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 18, 2010. The wing and two other units were being evaluated by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General as part of the first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Loadmasters and ramp services personnel from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing offload pallets of cargo from a C-130 onto a K-Loader at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., May 18, 2010. The wing was participating in an AMC Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Dale Greer)(Released)

Loadmasters and ramp services personnel from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing offload pallets of cargo from a C-130 onto a K-Loader at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., May 18, 2010. The wing was participating in an AMC Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Dale Greer)

Tech. Sgt. Greg Smith, a heavy equipment operator from the 123rd Airlift Wing, transports sand bags for hardening of base structures May 19, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The wing was being evaluated as part of an Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)

Tech. Sgt. Greg Smith, a heavy equipment operator from the 123rd Airlift Wing, transports sand bags for hardening of base structures May 19, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The wing was being evaluated as part of an Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

The Air Mobility Command's first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection tested three units' warfighting capabilities on U.S. soil by evaluating their response to a series of terrorist attacks while maintaining airlift operations. The exercise was a Total Force effort, with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing serving as the lead unit, the active-duty Air Force's 317th Airlift Group providing aviation assets, and the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron delivering cargo-handling capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)

The Air Mobility Command's first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection tested three units' warfighting capabilities on U.S. soil by evaluating their response to a series of terrorist attacks while maintaining airlift operations. The exercise was a Total Force effort, with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing serving as the lead unit, the active-duty Air Force's 317th Airlift Group providing aviation assets, and the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron delivering cargo-handling capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Air cargo specialists from the notional 104th Air Expeditionary Wing discuss their upcoming duties May 19, 2010 while standing in front of a large American Flag inside the Main Hanger at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, the active-duty Air Force's 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., all combined to form the 104th during an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)

Air cargo specialists from the notional 104th Air Expeditionary Wing discuss their upcoming duties May 19, 2010 while standing in front of a large American Flag inside the Main Hanger at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, the active-duty Air Force's 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., all combined to form the 104th during an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, set up a chemical decontamination station May 19, 2010, at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The Airmen were participating in an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection that also included more than 300 troops from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing. The 123rd served as the lead unit for the inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)

Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, set up a chemical decontamination station May 19, 2010, at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The Airmen were participating in an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection that also included more than 300 troops from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing. The 123rd served as the lead unit for the inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Master Sgt. Melanie Larsen, a paying agent from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing Finance Office, reviews Air Force Instructions on May 19, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. Sergeant Larsen was participating in an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)

Master Sgt. Melanie Larsen, a paying agent from the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing Finance Office, reviews Air Force Instructions on May 19, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. Sergeant Larsen was participating in an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

An Airman from the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron directs a forklift in the Main Hangar at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 19, 2010. The cargo movement was part of an AMC Operational Readiness Inspection held in Gulfport from May 16-23. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)

An Airman from the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron directs a forklift in the Main Hangar at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 19, 2010. The cargo movement was part of an AMC Operational Readiness Inspection held in Gulfport from May 16-23. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Staff Sgt. Ronald Renner, a firefighter from the 123rd Airlift Wing Fire Department, sits at the ready to respond to any on-base emergencies May 20, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss.  The wing was being evaluated as part of the U.S. Force's first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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Staff Sgt. Ronald Renner, a firefighter from the 123rd Airlift Wing Fire Department, sits at the ready to respond to any on-base emergencies May 20, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The wing was being evaluated as part of the U.S. Force's first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Senior Airman Robert Amburgey, an M-60 machine gunner from the 123rd Airlift Wing's security forces squadron, provides watch over the main gate at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 20, 2010. The wing and three other units were being evaluated for an Operational Readiness Inspection.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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Senior Airman Robert Amburgey, an M-60 machine gunner from the 123rd Airlift Wing's security forces squadron, provides watch over the main gate at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 20, 2010. The wing and three other units were being evaluated for an Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Master Sgt. Michael Ludke, an Nuclear-Biological-Chemical Warfare cell chief from the 123rd Airlift Wing, upchannels information during an evacuation of his building following a simulated attack May 20, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The 123rd and two other units were being evaluated for wartime readiness as part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. The ORI was unique in that it marked the first time inspectors evaluated a unit's performance in defense of the United States, using scenarios that played out on American soil rather than a simulated overseas environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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Master Sgt. Michael Ludke, an Nuclear-Biological-Chemical Warfare cell chief from the 123rd Airlift Wing, upchannels information during an evacuation of his building following a simulated attack May 20, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The 123rd and two other units were being evaluated for wartime readiness as part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. The ORI was unique in that it marked the first time inspectors evaluated a unit's performance in defense of the United States, using scenarios that played out on American soil rather than a simulated overseas environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing Fire Department respond to a simulated fire at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 20, 2010. The wing and two other units were being evaluated by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General as part of the first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing Fire Department respond to a simulated fire at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 20, 2010. The wing and two other units were being evaluated by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General as part of the first-ever homeland security/homeland defense Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Staff Sgt. Ronald Renner, a firefighter from the 123rd Airlift Wing Fire Department, directs the response to a simulated fire at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 20, 2010. The fire broke out after a simulated attack by terrorists as part of an Operational Readiness Inspection. The 123rd and two other units were evaluated during the inspection, conducted by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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Staff Sgt. Ronald Renner, a firefighter from the 123rd Airlift Wing Fire Department, directs the response to a simulated fire at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., on May 20, 2010. The fire broke out after a simulated attack by terrorists as part of an Operational Readiness Inspection. The 123rd and two other units were evaluated during the inspection, conducted by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing render first-aid to a fallen Airman from the 317th Airlift Group after a simulated attack on their shared facilities May 20, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The two units, along with the 70th Aerial Port Squadron, were being evaluated for wartime readiness as part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing render first-aid to a fallen Airman from the 317th Airlift Group after a simulated attack on their shared facilities May 20, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The two units, along with the 70th Aerial Port Squadron, were being evaluated for wartime readiness as part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Tech. Sgt. Kelley Blair of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing sets up a chemical warfare decontamination station May 21, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The 123rd and two other units were being evaluated by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General as part of an Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)(Released)
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Tech. Sgt. Kelley Blair of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing sets up a chemical warfare decontamination station May 21, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The 123rd and two other units were being evaluated by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General as part of an Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

An Air Force Post-Attack Reconnaissance Team member from the 123rd Airlift Wing inspects chemical detection devices in his perimeter on May 19, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The unit was participating in an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora) (Released)
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An Air Force Post-Attack Reconnaissance Team member from the 123rd Airlift Wing inspects chemical detection devices in his perimeter on May 19, 2010 at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The unit was participating in an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

Maj. Charles Walker (left) and Master Sgt. Kellie Hamilton of the 123rd Airlift Wing Staff Judge Advocate's Office prepare a legal document May 21, 2010 while under MOPP 4 conditions following a simulated chemical-weapons attack at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The scenario was part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)(Released)
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Maj. Charles Walker (left) and Master Sgt. Kellie Hamilton of the 123rd Airlift Wing Staff Judge Advocate's Office prepare a legal document May 21, 2010 while under MOPP 4 conditions following a simulated chemical-weapons attack at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The scenario was part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

123rd Airlift Wing Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Fred Ehrman takes a drink from his canteen May 21, 2010 while under MOPP 4 conditions following a simulated chemical-weapons attack at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The simulated attack was part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)(Released)
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123rd Airlift Wing Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Fred Ehrman takes a drink from his canteen May 21, 2010 while under MOPP 4 conditions following a simulated chemical-weapons attack at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss. The simulated attack was part of an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Dennis Flora)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing scored another entry in the history books May 16-23 when it successfully completed the Air Force's first-ever homeland-defense Operational Readiness Inspection.

"For the very first time, the U.S. Air Force has validated a wing's wartime capabilities to defend the homeland by fighting an enemy right here on U.S. soil," said Col. Greg Nelson, wing commander. "That represents a major shift in the way the Air Force evaluates unit readiness, because it puts the focus in our own backyard, rather than a simulated overseas location where these evaluations are usually staged.

"I'm pleased to say that the 123rd Airlift Wing passed this new test with flying colors. We are ready to perform our mission any time, anywhere, whether it be in support of our allies abroad or here at home in defense of the United Sates of America."

The wing received an overall grade of "excellent" for the inspection, which tested its ability to mobilize personnel and equipment, fly to a remote site, operate in a hostile stateside environment, complete multiple airlift sorties, defend against enemy attacks, and redeploy back home -- all while inspectors evaluated every phase of the operation.

The inspection results were announced by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General during a May 25 out-brief in the Base Annex.

The ORI was unusually challenging, Colonel Nelson told a crowd of more than 400 wing members who gathered for the out-brief, because of extreme weather conditions and several eleventh-hour changes mandated by the non-availability of infrastructure.

"We didn't flinch, we didn't whine, we didn't push back to any challenge, from changes in taskings, to changes in locations to changes in facilities at the last minute," he said. "(With temperatures hovering near 100 degrees), it also was the hottest ORI the team chief had even seen.

"But we maintained a great attitude, we operated safely, and we performed our mission with a level of excellence that makes me proud. This is our passion. We come from the Minutemen, when this nation was formed. We pick up arms, and we protect our neighbors and our families right here in the United States.

"There's a reason we just received our 14th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and it's because we are an outstanding wing. This ORI was equally outstanding because the IG evaluated how we provide our capabilities in the United States.

"So write this down in your diaries: You are the first wing to be wartime-validated in support of the security and defense of the United States of America. That's huge.

"I couldn't be more proud of the 123rd Airlift Wing, because you gave it your all."

Kentucky's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, was equally pleased by the inspection results.

"(Air Mobility Command) didn't need to grade this unit for me to know about its high level of excellence," General Tonini told the audience. "For 41 years, I've known of the excellence of the Kentucky Air National Guard. But this has got to be one of the best days I've had in the 41-plus years I've been in this uniform. I want to thank each and every one of you for what you've done. You did it like the great Airmen that you are."

The wing's ORI scenario required more than 300 Kentucky Air Guardsmen to establish operations at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., where they merged with about 175 troops from two other units to form the notional 104th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Those additional units were the active-duty Air Force's 317th Airlift Group from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and the Air Force Reserve's 70th Aerial Port Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.

With the 123rd serving as the lead unit, all three organizations worked seamlessly together to launch multiple theater airlift sorties across the Gulf Coast region, supporting U.S. Northern Command missions and civil authorities while defending against multiple attacks by well-organized terrorists.

The homeland-defense scenario differed markedly from those of traditional ORIs, which task units to deploy to simulated overseas locations and fight conventional military forces, Colonel Nelson said.

The new approach, implemented by Air Mobility Command for the first time here, represents a fundamental shift in thinking that more accurately reflects the military realities of a post-9/11 world in which homeland defense has taken center stage, he said.

Colonel Nelson noted that the idea for a homeland security/homeland defense ORI originated at the Kentucky Air Guard, whose leaders asked AMC to consider using the alternate approach to evaluate the 123rd.

"Almost everything that an airlift wing would do in support of a real-world homeland security/homeland defense mission -- whether it be response to a terrorist attack on U.S. soil or humanitarian aid following a hurricane -- would be in support of a lead civilian agency at the federal, state or local level. As a result, the overall command and control aspects are completely different from those of an overseas operation.

"So we took our plan to the IG and said, 'You need to evaluate us on this.' They thought our approach had a lot of merit and agreed to implement it on a trial basis. A lot of changes were required to make this approach work, but the IG developed new scenarios to test the interoperability of DOD, federal, state and local agencies in defense of the homeland. As a result, our ORI provided a unique opportunity to validate how we provide tactical airlift during an emergency in the United States.

"Ultimately, the inspection process is all about validating readiness, and we must be ready to perform our mission wherever it takes us. I think the ORI results speak for themselves: The 123rd is clearly ready to perform its mission -- any time, anywhere."

The 123rd Airlift Wing is no stranger to historic accomplishments, officials said. It is one of the most decorated wings in the U.S. Air Force, with 14 Outstanding Unit Awards. No other Air Guard unit has won more.

"The 123rd Airlift Wing stands ready!" Colonel Nelson said.

Click here to view a video of the 123rd Airlift Wing's historic ORI at the DVIDS Web site.