Heiniger concludes 28-year career in Kentucky Air Guard

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Phil Speck
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
Colonel Mark D. Heiniger officially retired after 28 years of service to the active-duty Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard during a ceremony here Nov. 7.

Heiniger, state air operations officer for Joint Forces Headquarters-Kentucky, received a Meritorious Service Medal and a Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony.

"He's done just about everything that an Air Force C-130 pilot could do," Brig. Gen. Warren Hurst, Kentucky's assistant adjutant general for Air, told the audience of friends, family and co-workers who gathered in the Base Annex. "He worked his way to the top, and obtained the experience and credentials to be recognized as a true leader.

"You've done it all: combat veteran of several wars, provided humanitarian relief around the world for people in need, and spent a lot of time as an instructor pilot, passing on your experience to some of the younger aviators in here. You always did it with a smile on your face."

Heiniger graduated from Purdue University in 1984 and completed Undergraduate Pilot Training the following year. He was assigned to the 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., until 1991, supporting numerous exercises, inspections and contingency operations as a C-130 co-pilot, aircraft commander, instructor pilot and evaluator pilot.

In 1995, Heiniger joined the Kentucky Air National Guard, where he initially served as an evaluator pilot in the 165th Airlift Squadron. He became the chief of Standards and Evaluation in 1998 and successfully led the squadron through two "Excellent" Aircrew Standardization/Evaluation Visits.

Heiniger was named commander of Kentucky's 123rd Operations Support Flight in 2002, during which time he was deployed to Saudi Arabia as commander of air expeditionary forces unit providing direct support to the war in Iraq. He led that unit through expedited and successful forward deployments to bases in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The colonel then served as commander of Kentucky's 165th Airlift Squadron from 2007 to 2011, leading the unit through three Air Expeditionary Force deployments to Afghanistan and two successful Operational Readiness Inspections.

In 2012, Heninger assumed command of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group. The unit is responsible for rapidly deploying multi-skilled expeditionary teams to quickly assess and open air bases in permissive, hostile or uncertain environments. The group is the only one of its kind in the Air National Guard and the first to receive mission-ready verification from U.S. Transportation Command for the Joint Task Force-Port Opening mission.

"You've really left a lasting impression on everyone here, and you spent a lot of time and a lot of care for our Airmen," Hurst told Heiniger. "And you were always a joy to go fly with, and you were always a joy to be on the ground with, as well. You've served the Air Force well, you've served the Air National Guard well, and you have served our Nation well. So thank you very much for that, and God bless you and your family as you continue to fly with the commercial airlines."