Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse --
Colonel William McCrink III, a 24-year Air Force veteran from Cazenovia, took command of the New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing during a ceremony held at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base on Sunday, May 3.
McCrink replaced Smith, who has commanded the wing since 2016. Smith will be retiring and working as a contractor with the 174th Flying Training Unit.
Because of the social distancing requirements currently in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, this change of command did not take place before the traditional massed formation of wing Airmen.
Only key participants-commanders and a few staff members-took part in the event. The participants wore facemasks and observed social distancing rules during the event, remaining as far apart as possible.
The change of command was videotaped and made available to wing members and the public on YouTube.).
Video of the change of command ceremony can be seen here on You Tube: https://youtu.be/3DwCypZcnSs
Army National Guard Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York, presided over the ceremony.
The change of command traditionally involves the transfer of the wing flag, from the outgoing to the incoming commander. This tradition still took place, but the participants made sure not to touch while transferring the flag.
In his remarks, Smith praised the Airmen of the 174th for their service during his time as commander.
"As I look back as the commander of the 174th Attack Wing, I really just want to say thank you to all the Airmen. It's been an honor to serve as your commander and it's been inspiring and I've learned so much from everybody and all the Airmen," Smith said.
McCrink also praised the members of the 174th Attack Wing in his remarks.
"You are an awesome family of professionals and patriots that I am proud to be part of put your country and your state ahead of yourselves and I am proud to serve alongside of you," he said.
"As Colonel Smith pointed out the wing has a long list of accomplishments, a lot of first's and a lot of milestones over the last four years but what stands with me the most is the resiliency of our Airmen," McCrink added
"You are no strangers to change," he said. "But you have shown that you are always able to quickly adapt."
The wing's members have adapted to the requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to accomplish the wing mission and maintain readiness, McCrink said.
McCrink is a 1996 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a command pilot with more than 2,000 flying hours in the F-16C Fighter and the MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft.
While on Active Duty, McCrink served in a number of positions to include F-16 pilot; Assistant Chief of Scheduling, 18th Fighter Squadron, Eielson, Air Force Base, AK; Chief of Scheduling and Assistant Weapons Officer, 119th Fighter Squadron, Atlantic City, Air National Guard Base, NJ; Flight Command and Assistant Director of Operations, 20th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Drum, NY; Inspector General, 8th Fighter Wing, Kunsan, Republic of Korea; Flight Commander and Chief, Wing Plans and Programs, 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy; and Director of Operations, 20th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Drum, NY.
McCrink joined the New York Air National Guard in 2011 as the 174th Operations Support Squadron Chief of Operations. He held positions as the Launch and Recovery Detachment Commander and the 108th Attack Squadron Commander before assuming his most recent role as the Commander of the 174th Operations Group. The 174th Operations Group is directly responsible for all MQ-9 Reaper combat operations and is also responsible for aircrew production at the first MQ-9 Flight Training Unit in the Air National Guard as well as operations at the largest Air National Guard Air to Ground bombing range in the Northeast.
McCrink was also responsible for establishing the process through which the 174th Attack Wing can launch aircraft directly from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, the first fully integrated daily MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations in Federal Aviation Administration's Class C airspace. Previously the MQ-9s flown during training had to be launched at Fort Drum.
McCrink has flown missions and deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle, the defense of the United States after Sept. 11, 2001; Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Freedom Sentinel in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has participated in numerous NATO exercises and Tactical Evaluations as part of the NATO Strike Mission in Europe.
McCrink's awards include: the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Combat Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal.
McCrink and his wife Kelly reside in Cazenovia with their four children.
The 174th Attack Wing, based at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, was the first Air National Guard wing to fly the remotely piloted MQ-9 aircraft. The wing was renamed the 174th Attack Wing in 2012.
The wing operates MQ-9 aircraft from Syracuse for training and provides combat patrols over Afghanistan and other locations. The MQ-9 has the ability to loiter over a battlefield and provide reconnaissance support to troops on the ground and attack targets when necessary.
The 174th Attack Wing also conducts training for MQ-9 mechanics and MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators for the Active Air Force, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard.
Members of the 174th Attack Wing also respond to state emergencies. Currently members of the wing are deployed and supporting the New York National Guard response to the COVID-19 pandemic while the wing continues to fly operational missions daily.