04/04/10 — Maj. Gen. William Holland's SJAFB visits also homecomings

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Maj. Gen. William Holland's SJAFB visits also homecomings

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 4, 2010 1:50 AM

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9th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. William Holland, a Nahunta native, addresses the crowd at Thursday's 4th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony at Seymour Johnson AFB.

Maj. Gen. William Holland always welcomes the opportunity to travel to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- to help host an awards banquet, to take part in an airman's re-enlistment, or, most recently, to preside over a change of command ceremony.

But the 9th Air Forces commander was never stationed at the Goldsboro installation.

He has no stories of high-speed flight in one of the base's F-15E Strike Eagles.

In fact, his connection to the home of the 4th Fighter Wing and 916th Air Refueling Wing dates back to days long before he first stepped into his country's uniform.

Holland came "home" this week -- to the county where he worked tobacco fields as a boy and graduated high school -- to facilitate the passing of the 4th guidon from Col. Mark Kelly to Col. Patrick Doherty.

And the Nahunta native talked about just how much both the airmen stationed at Seymour Johnson and those they live among outside the gates have impressed him throughout his career -- how both make him proud of his association with them.

"Being from Wayne County and seeing how this base and the community have grown together and continue to have that great working relationship, it really does make you proud, both as an Air Force leader and as a Wayne County native. I think this community gets it," he said. "Not only do (airmen) shop at the local stores, we live out there. In fact, the dynamics of an air base have changed since my wife and I came into the active force. It used to be almost like a very rural town where we had a fence line and everybody inside that fence line was a small little community ... but that's not the case anymore.

"So, obviously, things like that make me very proud of the fact that I'm a Wayne County native."

And so does the reputation of the base that calls it home.

"Seymour Johnson, of course, has constantly got people that are deployed in the current war fight in Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever they are needed. And in the deployed environment, they are working hard and doing great things," Holland said. "They have done some back to back deployments and that's difficult ... keeping up with that tempo. ... But, again, nobody does it better than the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson and the Goldsboro community."

So before the general headed back to Shaw Air Force Base, he said local residents should take pride, as he does, in the expertise of those service members living among them.

And those airmen, too, should proudly note all the support they receive from the men and women who make up the county the two-star general says he will always call home.

"Wayne County has always felt like home no matter where I have been stationed during my Air Force career," Holland said Thursday afternoon. "The Air Force has been very good to me, but I've got my roots right here. I learned a bunch of good lessons out there on the tobacco fields."

Holland is the commander of the 9th Air Force, which is comprised of six wings in the eastern United States -- including Seymour Johnson's own 4th Fighter Wing -- and two direct reporting units with more than 350 aircraft and 24,000 active-duty and civilian personnel. The command is also responsible for the operational readiness of 14 9th Air Force-gained National Guard and Air Force Reserve units.

After graduating from Charles B. Aycock High School, Holland attended East Carolina University, and in the more than 30 years since, has climbed the ranks of the Air Force. Among his most notable awards and decorations are the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Bronze Star.