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Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs visits the 106th Rescue Wing

  • Published
  • By MSgt Monica Dalberg
  • 106th Rescue Wing

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Alex Wagner, visited the 106th Rescue Wing to get a closer look at how the New York Air Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing operates during a May 11 visit to the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York.

Wagner flew on board an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter during a training mission, which included air-to-air refueling from an HC-130 Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and also meet with wing leaders and Airmen during the day-long visit.

“I’m always proud to showcase the capabilities and personnel of this great wing and it’s an honor to do it for a key member of the Secretary of the Air Forces’ staff,” said Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, the commander of the 106th.

“Mr. Wagner and his staff have a direct link to every member in the 106th, as he is the individual who authorizes and approves every deployment order,” Fitzgerald said.

Wagner provides overall supervision for matters related to manpower, military and civilian personnel, Reserve component affairs and readiness support for the nearly 700,000 Airmen and Guardians in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force.

“It was a great opportunity to show him what an invaluable asset we are not only to the New York Guard but to the Air Force as a whole,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Williamson, a special mission aviator with the 101st Rescue Squadron of the 106th Rescue Wing, who flew with Wagner.

The 106th Rescue Wing is one of three Air Force units focused on the search and rescue mission.

Prior to the flight, Wagner got a briefing on wing capabilities, including the importance of aerial refueling for extending range during rescue missions.

After the flight, Wagner had lunch with Airmen from across the wing and asked them about why they joined the Air National Guard and what makes them continue to serve, along with questions about their training.

Senior Airman Catalina Garcia Canas, an aerospace medical technician with the 106th Medical Group of the 106th Rescue Wing, said she appreciated how Wagner listened to the Airmen and validated their concerns and shared ideas he had for solutions.

“I really enjoyed his fresh take,” said Garcia Canas. “It’s exciting to see someone in such high leadership be eager to make change and talk to the Airmen.”

Wagner also stopped in to meet leaders and members of the 106th Mission Support Group and 106th Maintenance Group.

He viewed a mobile command center used by Security Forces for domestic operations response and route-clearing kit used by the Civil Engineering Squadron for debris removal in the event of a natural disaster or local emergency. At maintenance Wagner got a tour of an HC-130J Combat King II.

Throughout his visit, Wagner recognized and coined 11 wing Airmen in total for outstanding performances.

Master Sgt. Sandy Louis, sustainment services flight superintendent of the 106th Force Support Squadron, was recognized for her effort to improve the base dining facility.

“It showed that our leadership recognizes our people and the efforts and work we’re doing at the base,” Louis said.

Fitzgerald stated said that he was happy to showcase the Airmen across the base from every group and was very proud that quite a few of them were coined by Mr. Wagner in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the wing and the Air Force.

“Because of his visit, he now has a much better understanding of the rescue mission and the outstanding Airmen that we have within the 106th Rescue Wing,” Fitzgerald said.

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.