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Numbered Air Force commander ‘impressed’


The 18th Air Force commander visited Dyess Tuesday to see the base and personally attach an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award streamer to the 317th Airlift Group’s guidon.

Major Gen. James Hawkins, 18th AF commander. presented the award to the 317th AG in January for being one of the most essential to the Air Force and the Global War on Terror.

“This award is not earned because someone wrote a bunch of words on a piece of paper and submitted it in an award package,” General Hawkins said. “This is the accomplishment of a unit that is accomplishing the mission, flying and fighting the Global War on Terror. It’s a great deal to be proud of.”

He went on to explain a brief version of the history of the 317th AG, from the time it began in Duncan Field, Texas, in 1942, all the way through World War II; the Berlin Airlift; its time in France when it first got the C-130 aircraft; relief efforts in the Belgian Congo, India, Pakistan and the Dominican Republic; a tour at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.; and finally back here to Texas in 1997.

General Hawkins also welcomed a number of attending dignitaries from the city of Abilene and commended the unit in front of them saying, “It gives me even greater pride to see honoraries here to personally witness what you (the 317th) have done, to realize what the sons and daughters of your country have done for the war on terror.”

“No one can say the 317th isn’t a combat unit,” he said. “As the 18th AF commander, it gives me great pride to be here and present this award.

“This is the fourth year of the Global War on Terror, and the 317th has had more than 150,000 accident-free flying hours; more 17,000 of them were combat and continuing-mission hours. That is simply fantastic.”

“The fact that they’ve won their seventh consecutive AFOUA is a testimony in and of itself,” General Hawkins said. “I also awarded them their second consecutive flight safety award from the Society of the American Air Force Flight Safety.”

Colonel Kevin Jackson, 317th AG commander, expressed his pride in the unit he now manages.

“It’s an honor to have this award,” he said, “but it’s an even greater honor to have such a distinguished group of people to lead. I am living my life’s dream right now. I just don’t see how it could get any better than this.”

He went on to mention the great relationship between the 317th AG and the 7th Bomb Wing.

“The daily support from (the bomb wing) means so much to us. It’s been outstanding since day one.”

“I’m impressed with the 317th AG and the 7th BW,” General Hawkins said. They have had the leading edge in the Global War on Terror, deploying to the (areas of responsibility) and taking the fight to the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am proud of them.”

He said the C-130 aircraft here are “extremely important” to the mission.

“We have only six C-130 squadrons in the Air Mobility Command,” he said. “Two are at
Pope AFB; two are at Little Rock, Ark.; and two are here. That means Dyess hosts one third of the (AMC’s) C-130 force.”

The 39th and 40th Airlift Squadrons will soon receive three more 130s, reaching a “full complement” of the birds, he said.

After the award ceremony, General Hawkins and his wife, Linda, proceeded to the 317th
Maintenance Squadron propulsion shop for a Lean briefing by Master Sgt. Scott MacKeller, 317th AG flight safety superintendent.

He also met with a number of dignitaries from the city of Abilene and the Chamber of
Commerce Military Affairs Committee, toured a number of squadrons on base, met with
Dyess’ first sergeants, and received tactical and intelligence programs briefings.

General Hawkins spoke highly of the support the city of Abilene provides and closed by saying, “I would like to say how much I approve of the 7th BW and their support of the 317th AG. My time here was great.”