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Hometown Heroes Salute to Hancock Field Members and Their Families

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Deborah Bitely (third from left) of the 152nd Air Operations Group receives a Hometown Hero award from New York Air National Guard leadership at the Maplewood Inn in Liverpool, NY on Jan. 9, 2011.  Bitely received the award for her service to her country following Sept. 11, 2001. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Faso/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Deborah Bitely (third from left) of the 152nd Air Operations Group receives a Hometown Hero award from New York Air National Guard leadership at the Maplewood Inn in Liverpool, NY on Jan. 9, 2011. Bitely received the award for her service to her country following Sept. 11, 2001. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Faso/Released)

SYRACUSE, New York -- Awards for the Air National Guard Hometown Heroes Salute were given to 44 members of Hancock Field and their families during the ceremony held at the Maplewood Inn on January 9, 2011.

This was the second ceremony to be held by Hancock Field. The award recipients deployed in support of various operations during Fiscal Year 2010, which covers from October 1, 2009 thru September 30, 2010. However, a small number presented were from the original time frame of September 11, 2001 to December 31, 2008.

The awards were presented by 174th Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Kevin Bradley; The Adjutant General of New York, MG Patrick Murphy; Sen. John Defrancisco of the 50th Senate District of New York; New York Joint Force Headquarters Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Anthony German; and 174th Fighter Wing Command Chief, CMSgt David Heckman.

Sen. Defrancisco, MG Murphy, and CMSgt Heckman all spoke about the important role family members play in the support of the military. Col. Bradley said, "With all the training we give our Airmen to make sure they can do their jobs, we never trained our families. Well, we finally got it right. We have the Family Support Program to assist our families while our Airmen are gone."

There are three tiers of the awards: Tier 1 members were deployed between 31 and 179 days; Tier 2 members were deployed between 180 and 365 days; and Tier 3 members were deployed for more than 365 days.

Tier 1 awards consist of a letter of appreciation signed by the Director of the Air National Guard and Command Chief Master Sergeant, and two Hometown Heroes Salute coins encased in a rosewood frame and personalized with the Airman's name. Tier 2 awards consist of an American flag encased in a rosewood frame, also personalized with the Airman's name. Tier 3 award is a silver eagle statue on a wood base with the Airman's name engraved.

Family awards consist of a rosewood pen and pencil set for the spouse, and specialized dog tags with the Hometown Heroes Salute logo for each child for Tier 1; a charm bracelet with the logo for females, a lapel pin with the logo for males, and a cinch sack with the logo for children for Tier 2; and Tier 3 family awards are a crystal bowl etched with the HHS log for the spouse or significant other and an ABU bad with the HHS log for children.

Each recipient also receives a "Center of Influence" medallion to present to the person they feel supported them and their family during their extended absence.

Col. Bradley said, "Our people couldn't deploy down range and do their jobs if they didn't have their families back home supporting them."

The Hometown Heroes Salute program was created to celebrate and honor Airmen, families, communities and special supporters who have significantly contributed to supporting the Airmen and Air National Guard's mission. It is an NGB-funded program in which funding is only for the production of the awards, special supporter's gifts, HHS unit banners, and the shipping costs of the items to each unit.

A committee was formed to establish the awards and criteria for eligible ANG members. The Hometown Heroes Salute committee was represented by the Enlisted Field Advisory Council (EFAC) Chair, Air Directorate Field Advisory Council (ADFAC) Chair, Mission Support Group Council Chair, ANG Command Chief Master Sergeant, Family Support Programs, and several members of the NGB staff.