Plane Dedicated to Base Air Park

  • Published
  • By 1LT Greta Lewis
  • 174th Fighter Wing
The first of many planes to be displayed in the newly-established Hancock Field Air Park was dedicated during a brief commander's call in the main hangar on September 12, as the unit and family members looked on.

The names of Brig Gen (Ret) Curtis Irwin, former 174th Fighter Wing commander, and SMSgt (ret) Charles Poehlman, former crew chief, were unveiled on the left and right sides of the refurbished F-86B Sabre. The plane was painted to the same likeness of the jets flown by the 138th Fighter Squadron from 1957 to 1970. Poehlman, and Irwin's daughters on his behalf, Mrs. Sheila Austin and SMSgt Lisa Damon, were invited on stage for the dedication of the plane.

Gen Irwin assisted in organizing the 138th Fighter Squadron shortly after World War II and served as commander of the unit from 1950 to 1973 and 1975 to 1977. During World War II, Gen Irwin was a fighter pilot in the Army Air Force.

SMSgt Poehlman was a member of the unit from 1948 until 1973, and served as a crew chief on the F-86 and A-47 aircraft until his retirement in 1973.

Maj Gen James Kwiatkowski, New York Air Guard Commander, spoke about the importance of heritage and history, and how it plays such a vital role in today's current operations. Those words were echoed by current 174th Fighter Wing Commander,
Col Kevin Bradley, who also thanked the family members in attendance. Bradley said, "We certainly wouldn't be able to do our jobs without the support of our families."

Two awards, a safety award and a distinguished flying plaque, were presented during the ceremony. Lt Col Dan Tester, Wing Safety Officer, accepted the Maj Gen John J. Pesch Safety Trophy, which is awarded annually to two Air National Guard flying units judged to have demonstrated the highest standards of flight safety at NAUGUS conference.

Col John Balbierer, 174th FW Maintenance Group Commander, and Lt Col Scott Brenton, 174th FW Operations Group Vice-Commander, accepted the NGAUS Distinguished Flying Plaque, which recognizes outstanding Air National Guard flying units. The distinction is based on overall combat readiness weighted on several factors including flying safety, aircraft operation readiness, weapons firing, skill level qualifications, outstanding accomplishments, and special missions and exercises.

The 174th Fighter Wing has evolved in its flying mission, starting from propeller-powered planes to jet engines, both manned planes, to the MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely piloted aircraft. The Reaper is the latest platform in the evolution of the unit. The unit has been using the Reaper to fly Combat Air Patrol Missions in Afghanistan since November 2009.

The 174th is also the site of the only Field Training Detachment for the MQ-9 maintenance training for all Air Force components: Active Duty Air Force, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. All personnel that require Reaper maintenance training will receive it at Hancock Field.

Contributions to this article were made by Maj. Jeffrey Brown.