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February Retiree's Corner

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Leonard Belk, 169th Fighter Wing Command Chief (left) and Chaplain 1st Lt. Brian Bohlman, say goodbye to Swamp Fox Airmen boarding a C-5 "Galaxy" aircraft for a deployment to Southwest Asia, Jan. 7, 2002.  The SCANG personnel are the first Air National Guard personnel from South Carolina to deploy to forward locations in support of the "War on Terrorism", "Operation Enduring Freedom".  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Robert E. Minder, 169th Communications Flight/RELEASED)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Leonard Belk, 169th Fighter Wing Command Chief (left) and Chaplain 1st Lt. Brian Bohlman, say goodbye to Swamp Fox Airmen boarding a C-5 "Galaxy" aircraft for a deployment to Southwest Asia, Jan. 7, 2002. The SCANG personnel are the first Air National Guard personnel from South Carolina to deploy to forward locations in support of the "War on Terrorism", "Operation Enduring Freedom". (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Robert E. Minder, 169th Communications Flight/RELEASED)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- We had right at 50 folks show up on a cold winter day, but there was a lot of warmth at our Luncheon. We only had one first timer, Ralph Yoho's wife Debbie, good to have her and any other spouse or family that would like to join us in the future. Gen. Calvin Elam did a fantastic job updating us with the McEntire story. He also presented me with a new commemorative coin from Joint Forces Headquarters, presented for Excellence. I am deeply honored to receive this and will treasure it. The highlight of the Luncheon was the Memorial Service for the folks that passed away, seventeen of them, during the year 2013. Harold Simmons, in an impromptu manner, helped me do this. I and others thought the Memorial Service went well. It was a real tribute. Harold arranged to have taps played for us; it was just a nice gesture.

McEntire History: I'd like to mention previous deployments that began during the month of February. Right now there is only one, the first deployment to Qatar in 2002. There is another deployment slated to come up, which will give me and my successors more history to report. There were 200 people on the first Qatar deployment for 90 days supporting the efforts in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, and it is still on-going. Actually, the base on Qatar was just about 'bare base' at that time. When McEntire went back to Qatar later, it had really built up infrastructure-wise. That particular deployment was rough on our pilots supporting the operation because they had to fly around their elbow to get to their thumb, due to flight restrictions over non-supporting states or countries. There was a lot of refueling and sitting in the cockpit.

I am still honoring the Retirees from 2007. This is the 2nd increment of them, they are: Maj. Gen. Gerald Harmon and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Dickson. Senior Master Sgts. Billy Daniels and Richard Wallace. Master Sgts. Gary Nojd, David Warr, Sean Ohara and Eric Ballard. Tech. Sgts. David Steele, Gregory Sipes, Ronald Evans and William Bradley.

Also, as of note, back in February 1960, McEntire received and transitioned into the F-104's, which meant we were the first unit (of many firsts) to obtain a Mach 2 plane. This really set off the "Cold War" era. McEntire, or back then Congaree Air Base, was instrumental for a major part of the Eastern Air Defense. It was an interesting and demanding time. I love to listen to the stories from back then, because many of our retirees still remember that era.

What do we have on our future agenda? Another Luncheon, February 4th. I am telling you, the Fort Jackson NCO Club loves to have us. They 'claim' we are their favorite group, and actually I believe that they say this with sincerity. The next meeting will be held February 4th, beginning at noon, at the NCO Club. I would like to appeal to you to attend for several reasons. One; we only had 50 folks in January, a minimal amount, and two; it is time for our 'famed' raffle. Our treasury is down a bit for supporting the Monument and the NCOAGA guys. Plus I feel obligated to pay for a meal for anybody who comes in uniform, namely to talk and inform us. So help me by attending and buy some raffle tickets, how about that for rationale? So please come if you can. If anybody needs to contact me, I am at rbarkalow@sc.rr.com, and my phone # at home is 803-936-0680.