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108th Attack Squadron dedicates new training facility in honor of former wing commander

The 108th Attack Squadron (ATKS) will officially open its newly renovated $3.5 million Formal Training Unit (FTU) facility on Hancock Field Sunday, May 3. (New York Air National Guard photo by Technical Sgt. Jeremy Call/Released)

The 108th Attack Squadron (ATKS) will officially open its newly renovated $3.5 million Formal Training Unit (FTU) facility on Hancock Field Sunday, May 3. (New York Air National Guard photo by Technical Sgt. Jeremy Call/Released)

HANCOCK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The 108th Attack Squadron (ATKS) will officially open its newly renovated $3.5 million Formal Training Unit (FTU) facility on Hancock Field where it will train MQ-9 sensor operators, pilots and mission coordinators Sunday, May 3.

The building is to be named in honor of the late Major General Robert A. Knauff, who served as the 174th Wing Commander from 1996 to 2003.  Knauff is credited with initiating the wings transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper.

"Major General Knauff's bold vision and courageous leadership brought the MQ-9 mission to Hancock Field and the men and women of the 108th Attack Squadron are honored to have established and now operate the Air National Guard's first-ever MQ-9 schoolhouse from this beautiful facility," said Lt. Col. John Knutsen, 108th squadron commander.

Prior to his retirement in 2009, Knauff served as the Commander of the New York Air National Guard. He commanded the 6,000-member New York Air National Guard and served as deputy commander of the 17,000 men and women of the New York Army and Air National Guard.

He was a combat veteran with more than 3,900 flying hours while piloting a variety of aircrafts including the F-106 Delta Dagger, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon and OV-10 observation aircraft.

A 1975 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Gen. Knauff completed undergraduate pilot training in 1976. In the years following, he undertook a series of flying and command assignments culminating with his duty at the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs in Latham, NY.

Knauff's awards include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, Combat Readiness Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Ribbon, and Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, and the New York State Defense of Liberty Medal.

"The staff and students of the 108th will humbly accomplish our mission from this outstanding training facility and uphold the dedicated professionalism and unwavering devotion worthy of Major General Knauff's namesake," said  Knutsen.

The new facility will allow the 108th ATKS to increase the number of aircrew students being trained at the base.

"In the years to come, nearly 90 students annually will walk through the doors of this building and learn how to operate and effectively employ the MQ-9 weapons system," said Knutsen.

Renovation operations for the 15, 656 square foot facility began on May 12, 2014.

Construction to convert the former F-16 avionics building to the 108th ATKS FTU facility was completed on March 9th of this year. The building was renovated at a cost of $3.5 million saving taxpayers approximately $2.5 - 3.5 million dollars when compared to the constructions costs of a new building.