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Hamm takes command of 123rd Operations Group; Gorter assumes post as wing vice commander

Col. Robert Hamm (right), incoming commander of the 123rd Operations Group, accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Hamm previously served as vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Robert Hamm (right), incoming commander of the 123rd Operations Group, accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Hamm previously served as vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Robert Hamm (right), incoming commander of the 123rd Operations Group, accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Hamm previously served as vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Robert Hamm (right), incoming commander of the 123rd Operations Group, accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Hamm previously served as vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter thanks the Airmen under his command as he steps down as commander of the 123rd Operations Group to become vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Gorter is a veteran of numerous combat operations, including Operations Restore Hope, Provide Promise, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter thanks the Airmen under his command as he steps down as commander of the 123rd Operations Group to become vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Gorter is a veteran of numerous combat operations, including Operations Restore Hope, Provide Promise, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter thanks the Airmen under his command as he steps down as commander of the 123rd Operations Group to become vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Gorter is a veteran of numerous combat operations, including Operations Restore Hope, Provide Promise, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

Col. Barry Gorter thanks the Airmen under his command as he steps down as commander of the 123rd Operations Group to become vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on June 22, 2013. Gorter is a veteran of numerous combat operations, including Operations Restore Hope, Provide Promise, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Col. Robert Hamm took charge of the 123rd Operations Group during a change-of-command ceremony here June 22, while Col. Barry Gorter assumed the post of 123rd Airlift Wing vice commander.

Hamm, the wing's outgoing vice commander, said he looked forward to working with the men and women of the operations group, whom he called "outstanding."

"I thank you for your unrelenting professionalism, your unstinting devotion to duty and your resolute readiness on behalf of our nation," Hamm told the group's Airmen in comments before an audience of more than 600 coworkers in the Fuel Cell Hangar. "We will not allow a lessening of those necessary traits."

The 123rd Operations Group is home to more than 230 Airmen serving in the 165th Airlift Squadron, 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and 123rd Operations Support Flight. The airlift unit's C-130 aircraft, aircrews and support agencies provide worldwide airland and airdrop capabilities to combatant commands, while the special tactics squadron's pararescuemen, combat controllers and special operations weather teams provide support to the U.S. Special Operations Command through short-notice, worldwide deployments.

"The outstanding nature and culture of our organization was recently validated by two major-command inspectors general," Hamm noted, adding that recent inspection results were "almost unprecedented" for the level of excellence demonstrated by group members.

"123rd Operations Group, your performance never ceases to amaze and humble," he said. "I applaud you."

Col. Warren Hurst, wing commander, praised Hamm for his performance as vice wing commander over the past 2 ½ years, saying he "contributed immeasurably to improvements, better efficiency and better oversight of wing resources."

"He's been a tremendous asset to the wing," Hurst said, "and will undoubtedly excel in leading the operations group through its next set of challenges."

Hurst also spoke highly of Gorter, who "has done a remarkable job as the operations group commander for the past three years," he said.

"In that time, the unit has deployed to (Afghanistan) twice, supporting combat airland and airdrop missions over in the AOR. They've also supported different missions around the globe, to include foreign-assistance type missions in countries like Columbia or in Bangladesh."

Gorter personally served as chairman of the C-130 Group Council, an agency responsible for managing C-130 issues across the Air Guard community, Hurst noted, and in 2012, he deployed to the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations to serve as deputy director or mobility forces at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center, providing oversight of airlift operations across the AOR.

"Col. Gorter, I'd like to thank you for your leadership in moving the operations group further down the road," Hurst said. "You've done an outstanding job. I look forward to having you as the vice wing commander."

Gorter took the opportunity to thank his Airmen for their support during his tenure as operations group commander.

"I feel very fortunate to have been able to serve alongside such an outstanding group of members," he said. "The Kentucky Air National Guard is a big family, and the nucleus of that family is the full-time employees. Thanks to each of you full-timers out here who persevere, who grind out the day-to-day tasks that, if we were at an active-duty unit, would be spread across many more personnel.... You get it done, and you get it done well.

"Thanks also to the traditional members. The mission does not get done without the traditional members (who) make up 70 percent of our unit and carry a huge amount of the workload."

Gorter noted that Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard have flown 8,700 flying hours during the past three years -- more than 2,500 of which have been in a combat environment.

"Crews have flown all over the world, from Bangladesh to South America to Afghanistan to Europe to Kuwait, to the entire United States and many places in between -- all in operations in which you have performed brilliantly," he said. "Thank you for your professionalism and your standard of excellence. You have amazed me for the past three years."