News Icon

News: Texas Air Guard bids farewell to Intel’s 'best of the best'

Story by Staff Sgt. Phil FountainSmall RSS IconSubscriptions Icon

Texas Air Guard bids farewell to Intel’s 'best of the best' Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain

Lt. Col. James Marrs, commander of the Texas Air National Guard's 217th Intelligence Squadron, based at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas is presented with the U.S. Air Force Meritorious Service Medal by Col. Susan Dickens, commander of the 149th Mission Support Group, based at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas during his retirement ceremony, following the squadron's inactivation, in San Angelo, Texas, Sept. 7, 2013. Marrs was the squadron's only commander, and its inactivation was ordered by the secretary of the Air Force, at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., to be effective Oct. 1, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain/Released)

SAN ANGELO, Texas - The commander of the Texas Air National Guard’s 217th Intelligence Training Squadron, located at nearby Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, relinquished command of the squadron during a ceremony that also marked the squadron’s inactivation as a unit here, Sept. 7, 2013. The 217th is a geographically separated unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, which is headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas.

In a traditional military ceremony, Lt. Col. James Marrs, the squadron’s commander, handed the unit’s flag to Col. John F. Kane, the wing’s commander, who then handed it to Command Chief Master Sgt. George B. Longoria, from the wing, before it was “cased” by the squadron’s Chief Master Sgt. Pedro Tambunga.

The ceremony was held at San Angelo’s historic Fort Concho and the attendees included: current and former members of the unit, state and federal military officials, and local residents and business owners.

The squadron’s inactivation was ordered by the secretary of the Air Force, at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., to be effective Oct. 1, 2013. The decision was part of a broad force-restructuring package implemented by the Department of Defense.

“Our mission was to source, from throughout the Total Force, operationally experienced personnel and fully qualify them as Air Education and Training Command instructors,” Marrs said. “In addition, our guardsmen maintained the highest-possible level of readiness to accomplish the Defense Support to Civil Authorities Incident Awareness mission, when directed by the governor.”

Not just trained and ready, service members from the squadron were called out by the state on multiple occasions.

“From your service to the people of Texas during Hurricane Ike to your border security missions, the 217th has been instrumental to operations in the Lone Star State and beyond,” Gov. Rick Perry wrote to the members of the squadron. “I hope that you will remember the excellence with which you performed your duties and the lasting importance of the training you gave your fellow service members.”

During his speech, Marrs discussed the professionalism and performance of the unit’s members.

“In the six years of our existence as a squadron, the 50 full-time instructors of the 217th have taught over 94,000 hours – that’s 50 percent more, on average, than their active-duty counterparts – and directly instructed and mentored over 15,700 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance students,” said Marrs, who was the squadron’s only commander during their period of activation. “Students who currently represent the backbone of our active duty, guard and reserve intelligence forces. Quite a legacy.”

“The level of award-winning production achieved by the 217th is unprecedented for an organization of this size,” Marrs said. “Members of the 217th have won local and state-level recognition at a higher per-capita rate than any other organization in the Texas Air National Guard during the last six years.”

A senior, federal Air National Guard official shared the commander’s sentiment.

“Since their federal recognition in 2009, the small cadre of 75 Air Guard Airmen represented the best of the best in the Intelligence community,” Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clark III, director of the Air National Guard, in Arlington, Va., wrote in a letter to Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas and commanding general of the Texas Military Forces.

Nichols, a state official appointed by the governor, was on-hand and discussed the unit’s short span of existence and it’s long-term legacy to the nation.

The 217th is “our shining star,” Nichols said. “This is a tough time. We never thought it was going to end as fast as it did.”

“Thank you for what you’ve done,” he said. “You make America better. You’ve trained great airmen and they’re out making America safer, today. Without you, we wouldn’t be as safe as we are – that’s a fact for all to know. We won’t forget.”

Another senior officer compared the squadron’s service during the past decade to units that were temporarily raised during the middle of the previous century.

“This unit has done an outstanding job in a wartime service,” said Brig. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air and commander of the Texas Air National Guard. “Very much in the tradition of the hundreds of units that were stood up for a brief time, during World War II.”

“It was a call of citizen-airmen to answer the needs of the nation,” Wisian said.

The state has worked with the airmen to prepare them for their transition from the squadron.

Marrs spent much of the past year focused and working with Texas ANG officials to take care of the airmen he’s led, said Brig. Gen. Brian C. Newby, deputy commander of the Texas Air National Guard.

“My feeling – at least up to this point – is we’ve done our best to try to make sure we have found a place for each and every one of our folks,” Newby said, “whether they’re retiring and we can honor them, whether there are new assignments they need to move on to, we want to make sure they remember their time here at the 217th.”

Marrs beamed with pride when he discussed the men and women he led as the squadron’s commander.

“There will likely never be another team like the one assembled under the banner of the 217th,” Marrs said. “I am honored to have served with this team – through both feast and famine.”

Marrs retired from military service in a ceremony, which followed the inactivation of the squadron he led from its inception. He served nearly 30 years to the state and nation, and said he and his wife plan to remain in San Angelo.

“It’s been a challenging and rewarding journey,” Marrs said.


Connected Media
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Lt. Col. David Hafer, a member of the Texas Air National...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Lt. Col. James Marrs, commander of the Texas Air...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Command Chief Master Sgt. George B. Longoria, with the...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Brig. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Texas' deputy adjutant...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Brig. Gen. Brian C. Newby, deputy commander of the Texas...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Lt. Col. James Marrs, commander of the Texas Air...
ImagesTexas Air Guard bids...
Lt. Col. James Marrs, commander of the Texas Air...


Web Views
135
Downloads
0

Podcast Hits
0



Public Domain Mark
This work, Texas Air Guard bids farewell to Intel’s 'best of the best', by SSgt Phil Fountain, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:09.07.2013

Date Posted:09.23.2013 16:04

Location:SAN ANGELO, TX, USGlobe

More Like This

  • About 50 U.S. airmen assigned to the 149th Civil Engineering Squadron, a subordinate unit of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas, trained with Royal Norwegian military cadets on construction projects here, near Moss, and in Oslo, Norway, Aug. 12-19, 2013.
  • A financial program manager with the comptroller flight of Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas wore multiple hats during a deployment here, Aug. 12-23, 2013.
  • Last month, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer A. Joubert of Lake Church, La., a production recruiter with the 149th Fighter Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, was recognized by the Air National Guard as one of the nation’s top recruiters during the 2012 Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention Workshop in New Orleans, in her native state.
  • Airmen of the 59th Medical Wing, based out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, along with members of Task Force Arriero’s Partnership of the America’s Command and Control Element, were in the municipality of Malacatan, San Marcos for the start of a medical readiness training exercise, April 30.

Options

  • Army
  • Marines
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • National Guard

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

SELECT A HOLIDAY:

VIDEO ON DEMAND

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Flickr