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104th Fighter Wing recognizes hometown heroes and future deploying members 
 
Video by By Senior Airman Eric Kolesnikovas, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs, Story by By Senior Airman Bonnie Harper, 104th Fighter Wing Public Affairs  
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. - A Commander's Call honoring award recipients and past and future deploying unit members was held in the main hangar here, March 3, 2012.

Several distinguished visitors attended the event including U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Mass., U.S. Sen. Kelley Ayotte of N.H, Mass. Rep. Richard Neal, Secretary Coleman Nee, Mass. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter, the Adjutant General of the Mass. National Guard, Westfield Rep. Don Humason, Northampton Rep. Peter Kocot, Maj. Gen. Scott Rice, Commander of the Mass. ANG, and Brig. Gen. Gary Keefe, Assistant Adjutant General for the Mass. ANG.

"This room today shows the power of American example, not an example of American Power," said Mass. Rep. Richard Neal.

The first award presented was the Bronze Star Medal, given to Tech. Sgt. Robert Eisnor of the 104th Civil Engineering Squadron. Eisnor received this distinct honor through his leadership and dedication to duty as a team leader for an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from Feb. 5 through Aug. 4, 2011.

Meritorious Service Medals were presented to Lt. Col. Joseph Daley, Maj. David Archambault, Senior Master Sgt. Andres Huxtable, Senior Master Sgt. Tom Puccio, Master Sgt. Todd Canedy, Master Sgt. Shane Cekovsky, Master Sgt. James Parnell, Master Sgt. Marnie Wallace, and Master Sgt. Casey Walsh.

The Distinguished Pistol Badge was also presented to Tech. Sgt. Chris Cekovsky for recognizing his first place finish at the regional marksmanship competition. This badge is worn by less than 1 percent of the active military. Tech Sgt. Cekovsky will compete at the national level in April.

Several of the distinguished visitors had the opportunity to address the audience, showing their support and appreciation for the wing.

"We know that freedom is not free," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, wife of Lt. Col. Daley who attended the event for her husband's retirement ceremony. "We have our democracy and freedoms because of servicemen and women like you and we admire your service and dedication."

"My greatest privilege is to be the spouse of a military member," Ayotte added.

Following the presentation of awards, the base recognized more than 30 individuals who deployed over the last year as part of the Hometown Heroes program. This program was developed to honor those who have served overseas for 30 days or more since the beginning of Operation Noble Eagle in 2001. This program also honors family members with medallions, gift sets, and medals for the children with the words "We Served Too," acknowledging the sacrifices of military families.

A change of command ceremony also took place for the 131st Fighter Squadron. Lt. Col. Alexander Haldopoulos took command of the squadron, and the former commander Lt. Col. Harold Anderson assumed responsibility for alert operations on base. The ceremony also paid tribute to the guardsmen that will soon be deploying to the Middle East, with Haldopoulous as their deployed commander.

"This unit is about to deploy pilots and personnel for the third time in ten years and will deploy to the Central Command Area of Responsibility (AOR) to support those who depend on U.S. Air Power," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter. "The 104th Fighter Wing has courage, valor and fidelity and I wish them a safe and successful mission."

"We have been in combat in the desert for 21 years and have had complete air superiority in the Middle East since 1991," said Col. Robert Brooks, 104th Fighter Wing Commander, during his closing remarks. "You are ready for this deployment, you are the leaders of our nation, and you will be successful."
3/7/2012