Newly Appointed Air Assistant Adjutant General Visits the 106th Rescue Wing

  • Published
  • By Lt. Cheran A. Campbell

Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, Westhampton Beach, N.Y. -- Brig. Gen. Denise Donnell, commander of the New York Air National Guard, honored recruiters and learned how the wing is using technology during her first visit to the 106th Rescue Wing, at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard base on April 8, 2022.

“It was an amazing Friday afternoon spending time with incredible Airmen who do everything from urban search and rescue, to firefighting, to base defense and everything in between,” Donnell said.

Donnell and the New York State Command Chief Master Sgt. Denny L. Richardson met with wing leadership and toured the base facilities including the communication and security forces building, fire department, medical, operations and maintenance groups.

Donnell and Richardson also visited the recruiting office to congratulate them on a job well done in sustaining the wing strength at over 100 percent.

Richardson presented Master Sgt. Laurie Perno, 106th Rescue Wing retention office manager, with a challenge coin for her outstanding work as a recruiter and retention officer.

“I have one word, legacy. You have left your mark on this wing and you have contributed to the legacy of the 106th,” Richardson said.

Perno has recruited 272 Airmen during her career and was ranked the number one retention office manager in New York State for fiscal year 2018, 2019 and 2020. In fiscal year 2019, she was ranked the number six retention office manager in the nation then she ranked fourth in the nation for fiscal year 2020.  

Donnell and Richardson also had the opportunity to observe how the wing’s operations and maintenance groups are experimenting with technology.

The operations group is testing out the SpaceX Starlink commercial internet satellite system as a way to track Airmen on missions.

The goal, according to the operations group, is to use Starlink along with blue force tracking system, to track Airmen and Aircraft when they deploy for both domestic and overseas missions. The Starlink allows internet access when there is no conventional network connectivity.

The maintenance group is testing out a virtual reality Engine Run program, that teaches maintainers how to start and shutdown engines in accordance with their regulations through a virtual environment. It also allows maintainers to test emergency shutdown procedures.

The Engine Run program is a commercial system, made by Moth & Flame, that uses eyewear and hand controllers to transport Airmen into a virtual cockpit.

Master Sgt. Thomas Beall, 106th Rescue Wing aerospace propulsion superintendent, explained how he is working with the developers to create a more robust program. 

The overall intent of testing and improving the Engine Run program is to get Airmen qualified on the program instead of sending them to engine school, Beall said. Engine school seats are challenging for Guardsmen to get and using this system would allow them to learn at the base, Beall explained.   

Donnell and Richardson concluded the day with the 106th Rescue Wing Chief’s Council.

The Chief’s Council is made up of all the Chiefs throughout the base and are key enlisted advisors to the base commanders.

“To see the Airmen in the cockpit of a helicopter or C-130, or in a maintenance hangar, or the PJs….working with all their different pieces of equipment, was not only inspiring, it really motivates me and makes me even more proud of the New York Air National Guard and the 106th part of that mission,” Donnell said.         

Donnell took over leadership of the 5,900 Airmen of the New York Air National Guard from Major General Timothy LaBarge, on April 2.

The 106th Rescue Wing, based in F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations. Currently, the wing also supports statewide COVID-19 missions.