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Despite challenges, Airmen produce another banner year for 157th

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- There appears to be very little if anything that can stop the Airmen of the 157th Air Refueling Wing from excelling at their mission and posting another banner year.

In the midst of a budget sequester, a government shutdown, and corresponding furloughs, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and the state's top military brass praised the 2013 efforts of Airmen in the 157 ARW for an excellent year during the annual Commander's Call on Dec. 8. The superb year was highlighted by countless stories of dedicated Airmen, a successful Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection, or NORI, being selected as the top unit to receive the new KC-46A tanker and hosting a handful of distinguished guests including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

"It's truly been another great year for 157th Air Refueling Wing and Pease Air National Guard Base," said Hassan, the first governor to attend the event since 2003. "Your skill, your hard work and devotion to our nation's defense distinguishes you as one of the most accomplished Air Refueling Wings in the country. And you are great source of pride for the people of New Hampshire."

Hassan painted a broader picture of what New Hampshire Airmen have accomplished over decades of outstanding service, including 11 Outstanding Unit awards since 1975. She also noted that since 2009, Pease Total Force Integration rates exceeded all other Air National Guard Units in the country. She said she was very proud of the unit, gave thanks for her participation in an air refueling mission, and pledged her continued support to the wing.

New Hampshire Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel III, echoed Hassan's sentiments.

"With little fanfare, you continue to distinguish yourselves as one of the best, if not the best Air National Guard wing in the country," Reddel said. "We will undoubtedly look back on 2013 as the exclamation point on more than two decades worth of extraordinary performance and resilience."

Brigadier Gen. Carolyn Protzmann and 157 ARW Commander Col. Paul Hutchinson each highlighted the additional challenges the unit faced in navigating the sequester cuts and then government shutdown in October. Protzmann spoke of the challenges not only on the wing mission, but of the lives of each member and their families.

"Those were challenging times," said Protzmann, who noted the wing was without a budget for the first time in 20 years. "You have proven what it takes to be a total force partner."

Hutchinson also spoke to the effects of the shutdown and deployments on the NORI, which was originally postponed before being executed successfully during the November drill period.

Though there were some doubters as to rescheduling the inspection on short notice, Hutchinson said he was confident the airmen in the 157th would complete to no fail mission.

"We wanted to show the Air Force and Air Mobility that when the horn goes off and we have to respond (that) we can do that," said Hutchinson.

And the unit did respond accordingly by receiving an "excellent" mark for the inspection. The unit received "outstanding" marks in three areas, "excellent" grades in four additional areas, and was without a single "marginal" or "unsatisfactory" rating. Furthermore, six teams were recognized, seven individuals were presented with Inspector General coins, and an additional eight individuals were also recognized for their efforts during the inspection. Hutchinson said the wing was prepared, exuded positive attitudes, displayed a sense of urgency, and that all levels of supervision provided impeccable leadership during the time-compressed scenario.

"We are going to be around a long time because you do what you do," said Hutchinson. "The future is extremely bright here."

The wing wide award winners were also presented at the commander's call. Award winners included Airman 1st Class Kristen Arends in the Airman category; Tech. Sgt. Chester Hinds in the NCO category; Master Sgt. Jonathan Rideout in the Senior NCO category; Maj. Toby Pellenz in the Company Grade Officer category; the Spirit of Hope Award was presented to Staff Sgt. Kayla Carpenter and the Honorary Recruiter was presented to Airman 1st Class Alan Bauman.
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