09/14/10 — 916th is best unit

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916th is best unit

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 14, 2010 1:46 PM

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Members of the 916th Air Refueling Wing, and their commander, Col. Randall Ogden, accept the Air Force Association's top Reserve unit award Monday morning at the Gaylord Hotel in Oxon Hill, Md.'s National Harbor.

OXON HILL, Md. -- More than an hour before Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley told a crowd he hoped to see the latest refueling tanker in use by next fall, a group of airmen was honored on the same stage for its near-perfect command of an aging fleet of KC-135R Stratotankers.

Members of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's 916th Air Refueling Wing received one of the Air Force Association's top honors -- best Reserve unit -- Monday during opening ceremonies for the 2010 AFA & Space Conference and Technology Exposition.

Wing Commander Col. Randall Ogden was among those on hand and said during his short stint as their leader, he has come to expect great things from the Goldsboro-based airmen.

"They are just great patriots, so I am just so proud they have accomplished this," he said. "They do huge things."

From producing the most refueling hours of any tanker unit -- nearly 10,000 hours a year -- to transforming the KC-135 into an emergency room in the sky during aeromedical evacuation missions into Afghanistan, they simply never waver, Ogden said.

"Many people in our unit do so much more than the standard. They are just plain patriotic and they want to serve," he said. "And we want to be known as the best wing year in and year out ... and that's easy to accomplish when you have people who aren't just here for a paycheck."

But it takes more than heart to perform at the level the 916th was honored for bringing to the table during that Monday ceremony.

It also takes a certain professionalism and attention to detail Ogden said is at a premium on Seymour Johnson.

"Our maintainers can take a 50-year-old airplane and fly it more than any unit does because we have such great people," he said. "They have the expertise on this jet to really do an incredible job."

And when Security Forces, air crew and other personnel head to theater, they match the performances of their active-duty counterparts.

"You've got the medical evacuation that the (KC-135) has pretty much taken over the last five years ... and we have our Security Forces who will ... deploy next summer and really be away from their families for six months at a time. And we continue to do a daily alert here where we could be tasked to support missions stateside," Ogden said. "You know, we used to call ourselves 'the strategic Reserve.' During the Cold War days we trained, but were rarely called upon. Well, now, we're more of an operational Reserve where we're completing missions on a daily basis.

"It's a challenge, so I'm extremely proud of our wing. We have a tremendous group of people. The sacrifices they are making are incredible, as far as maintaining that balance of their families, their employers and still finding that time to serve their country."

It is simply who they are: "such a great team," he added.

So don't expect the colonel to simplify his expectations after he and other members of the 916th bring their latest accolade home to Goldsboro.

"We want to maintain that standard of excellence," Ogden said. "The message won't change," he said. "Every day we want to come in here and find a way to do our jobs better."