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Mounkes assumes command of 123rd Contingency Response Group

Col. David Mounkes assumes command of the 123rd Contingency Response Group as he accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., July 12, 2014. Mounkes replaces Col. Mark Heiniger, who is the new director of operations at Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. David Mounkes assumes command of the 123rd Contingency Response Group as he accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., July 12, 2014. Mounkes replaces Col. Mark Heiniger, who is the new director of operations at Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Col. David J. Mounkes accepted the 123rd Contingency Response Group guidon during a ceremony here July 12, symbolizing his appointment as the group's new commander.

Mounkes, the former commander of Kentucky's 123rd Global Mobility Squadron and deputy commander of the 123rd CRG, is replacing Col. Mark D. Heiniger, who has been named director of operations at Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard.

"In that step from lieutenant colonel to colonel, the perception of you is different," said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky's adjutant general. "Beyond that, the expectations of your bosses grow. I've gotten to know David Mounkes for quite some time, and I know that he's ready to make that leap. I truly believe that what happens today bodes well for the future of our organization."

Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, was equally laudatory in his remarks before an audience of more than 100 Airmen, friends and family members.

"The reputation you brought with you throughout this organization has been stellar since the time you started," Gorter told Mounkes. "You're well-respected across the wing, your integrity is unquestionable, you speak the truth, you're a strategic thinker all the time, and you care about your group.

"You've got a leader right here that cares about every one of you," Gorter continued, directing his remarks to the audience. "He cares about where you go with that mission and makes sure that the best thing is happening for this organization. David, you are the best person to take on this job."

Mounkes received his commission through Officer Training School in 1989. He has flown C-130 combat, combat-support and humanitarian relief operations worldwide while serving for the active-duty Air Force and Air National Guard.

Mounkes served on active duty at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, spending three years with the 50th Airlift Squadron and flying operational missions all over the world. He was then selected as a tactical airlift instructor and served three years with the 62nd Airlift Squadron, instructing and evaluating both initial airlift students and tactical airlift instructor candidates.

He transferred to the Kentucky Air National Guard in August of 1997. Since joining, Mounkes has served as the 123rd Airlift Wing's Operations Group standards and evaluations navigator, the 165th Airlift Squadron's director of operations, and, most recently, was dual-hatted as both the 123rd Global Mobility Squadron commander and the 123rd Contingency Response Group deputy commander.

Over the course of his career, Mounkes has participated in Operations Provide Promise, Restore Hope, Provide Relief, Joint Forge, Coronet Oak, Unified Response, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In 2007, he served as squadron commander for the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, and commanded an overseas contingency response element as part of Haitian earthquake relief efforts in 2010.

As the ceremony came to a close, Heiniger spoke of his admiration for the 123rd CRG's Airmen, and he expressed his assurance that Mounkes would lead them well.

"I'm honored to have commanded the hardest-working group of Airmen in the Air Force for the last two years," Heiniger said. "They do more with less than anybody I've ever witnessed. Your dedication to each other and attitude toward the job is exceptional, and you prove it every day with your accomplishments. You motivated me to do the best I could every day.

"Men and women of the CRG, I can honestly say you're getting a great commander," Heiniger continued. "He possesses more knowledge and experience than anybody else in the CR world. With that being said, I couldn't be more excited for you in the future. I know you will continue to do great things, and I thank you for letting me be a part of your team."

Mounkes promised his Airmen that the group would continue to make its mark on the world.

"I know the quality of people and leaders on this base and in the Kentucky National Guard, and I am both honored and humbled to assume this command," Mounkes said. "We know for the good of the nation that there needs to be a readily accessible Air National Guard CRG, and we'll work to make (U.S. Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command) and the National Guard Bureau keep that on the forefront of their minds. We'll continue to live up to what they all have called the best CRG in the Air Force."

The 123rd Contingency Response Group is the only unit of its kind in the Air National Guard. Conceived as an "airbase in a box," the group acts as an early responder in the event of contingency operations worldwide. Its personnel have the training and equipment to deploy to austere sites, rapidly open a runway and establish airfield operations so cargo or troops can begin to flow into affected areas. Unit members represent a broad spectrum of specialties, including airfield security, ramp and cargo operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.