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Gorter assumes command of 123rd Airlift Wing

Col. Barry Gorter receives his first salute as commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a change-of-command ceremony held in the Fuel Cell Hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 24, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter receives his first salute as commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a change-of-command ceremony held in the Fuel Cell Hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 24, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter (center), incoming commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, accepts the unit guidon from Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 24, 2013, as Col. Warren Hurst (right), the outgoing wing commander, observes. Hurst has been named Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Col. Barry Gorter (center), incoming commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, accepts the unit guidon from Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 24, 2013, as Col. Warren Hurst (right), the outgoing wing commander, observes. Hurst has been named Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Col. Barry Gorter assumed command of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a ceremony here Nov. 24, thanking the unit's members for their past dedication and pledging his commitment to future readiness.

"This is our time," Gorter told the nearly 900 Airmen who gathered in the Fuel Cell Hangar to witness the change of command. "Whether you've been in the military four days or 40 years, this is our time -- your chance and my chance to serve our country.

"And ours is an interesting time. The war in Iraq is over. Afghanistan is quickly winding down. But there are concerns -- concerns like instability in the Middle East and emerging threats in the Pacific region. But if the call comes tomorrow to go overseas and engage in conflict, we're ready. We are experienced and battle-tested, and we continue to train with vigor.

"Being selected to sit in the corner office during this period of our time is humbling. Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard: You are so talented, and I'm privileged to be your commander."

Gorter, the wing's 23rd commander, replaces Col Warren Hurst, who has been named Kentucky's assistant adjutant general for Air.

The symbolic high point of the ceremony came when Hurst passed the wing guidon to Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, who then passed it on to Gorter, formally marking the transfer of responsibility.

Tonini called Gorter "the right man for the job" based on his past performance as deputy commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group, commander of the 123rd Operations Group and vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

"You've had great success in previous deployments, to include Operation Restore Hope, Provide Promise, Volant Oak, Coronet Oak, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," Tonini said. "Your leadership and experience set you up to take command of these Airmen, and I know you will serve them well."

Tonini also used the occasion to praise Hurst for his "tremendous accomplishments" as wing commander over the past 14 months. That brief period was marked by multiple overseas deployments and the unit's first Consolidated Unit Inspection, which compressed five high-headquarters evaluations into just eight days, resulting in multiple "excellent" grades.

"For more than four decades, I've watched this organization grow from a modest air reconnaissance mission to an airlift force that is recognized all over the world," Tonini said.

"The emphasis to excel has to come from the top down. The pace has to be set by someone. And at this wing, that pace is set by the commander. Colonel Hurst, I want to recognize you for the job you've done over the last 14 months. You've taken this air wing to new levels and carried it effortlessly.

"I look forward to your future role in the Kentucky National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters. You will continue to take our organization to greater heights."

Hurst likened his term as wing to commander to "an incredibly fast ride" and said the unit's performance during the Consolidated Unit Inspection was "nothing short of remarkable."

"I am very proud and extremely pleased with your professionalism and dedication, especially through a very challenging year marked with sequestration, furloughs, inspections, DV visits, multiple deployments -- and cap that off with a government shutdown," Hurst said.

"Thank you for pressing forward through all the obstacles and knowing what needed to be done to maintain our ability to provide a combat-ready force.

"I am honored and blessed to have led the best tactical airlift wing in the United States Air Force."

Prior to Gorter's selection, 19 men have led the 123rd. Three of those commanders served two different tenures, however, making Gorter's appointment the 23rd in wing history.

Gorter is a C-130 command pilot with more than 3,000 hours in various aircraft. He joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in 1991 after completing undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

The next 10 years were spent supporting numerous exercises, inspections and contingency operations as a traditional Guardsman while also serving in the civilian sector as a pilot for American Airlines.

In 2002, Gorter became the officer-in-charge of the Kentucky Air Guard Quality Assurance program. He transitioned as the commander of the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in 2006, and in 2008 became deputy commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group.

Gorter was selected to backfill for the maintenance deputy commander at the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for nine months prior to attending Air War College in residence.

Upon graduation from Air War College in 2010, he was named to serve as commander of the 123rd Operations Group here, a post he held until June 2013 when he was named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

Gorter recently deployed as the U.S. Central Command deputy director of mobility forces at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Upon his return, he was selected as the director of mobility forces to the commander of Air Forces Northern.