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Philly-area ANG retirees, members reconnect during 74th annual dinner

From left to right, retired Col. Lou Meier, former 111th Fighter Wing commander; retired Lt. Col. Gary Yudell, former 111th FW O-2 Skymaster and A-37 Dragonfly pilot; and retired Master Sgt. Jim Waibel, currently a historian for the 111th Attack Wing at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa. view and old photograph during the Wing’s 74th annual 111th Attack Wing Retirees Dinner in Philadelphia, April 4, 2016. The yearly dinner hosts retirees, current members and associated 111th Attack Wing staff for an evening of socialization between Pa. Air National Guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

From left to right, retired Col. Lou Meier, former 111th Fighter Wing commander; retired Lt. Col. Gary Yudell, former 111th FW O-2 Skymaster and A-37 Dragonfly pilot; and retired Master Sgt. Jim Waibel, currently a historian for the 111th Attack Wing at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa. view and old photograph during the Wing’s 74th annual 111th Attack Wing Retirees Dinner in Philadelphia, April 4, 2016. The yearly dinner hosts retirees, current members and associated 111th Attack Wing staff for an evening of socialization between Pa. Air National Guard members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Approximately 70 former and current 111th Attack Wing members gathered to reconnect during a dinner held in their honor in Philadelphia, April 4, 2016. Commander of the 111th Attack Wing Col. Howard Eissler and Anna Richar, the Horsham AGS Airman & Family Readiness Center programs manager, addressed the crowd as keynote speakers during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Approximately 70 former and current 111th Attack Wing members gathered to reconnect during a dinner held in their honor in Philadelphia, April 4, 2016. Commander of the 111th Attack Wing Col. Howard Eissler and Anna Richar, the Horsham AGS Airman & Family Readiness Center programs manager, addressed the crowd as keynote speakers during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa -- Retirees, current members and associated 111th Attack Wing staff gathered for a dining event held in Philadelphia, April 4.

Touted as the 74th annual 111th Attack Wing Retirees Dinner, the affair served to bond an intergenerational crowd of Air Guardsmen from the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and current Horsham Air Guard Station.

"I come every year to see old friends and to hear about what's going on at the base now," said retired Senior Master Sgt. Wayne Radlach, a former 111th Resource Management Squadron warehouse superintendent. He stated that he intends to continue attending the dinner each year in order to stay in contact with his former military co-workers.

Many attendees said that they see the yearly affair as a means to reconnect with those in the Air National Guard with whom they had served.

"I always enjoyed the people [while in the military]," said retired Lt. Col. Gary Yudell, a former O-2 Super Skymaster and A-37 Dragonfly pilot here and coordinator of this year's dinner. "The job, it was always good, bad and indifferent; but, the people were always great - and that continues.

"Look at this event that we have every year. It's all about people getting together and enjoying each other's company. There's a little reminiscing, but mainly it's just finding out how they're doing, how they're getting along in life."

Hosting approximately 70 attendees, the night began with a moment of silence for Wing members who had passed since last year's event. Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jenny Pappas from the Horsham Air Guard Station Retiree Activities Office emceed the event and served to regulate the boisterous bunch during the affair. The gala continued with the Commander of the 111th Attack Wing, Col. Howard Eissler and Anna Richar, the Horsham AGS Airman & Family Readiness Center programs manager, addressing the crowd as keynote speakers.

Although the central objective was reunion, this year's event featured a mini-tutorial on obtaining the many benefits offered to veterans and former 111th ATKW members.

"Tonight was a little bit different then past events," said Richar. "I'm trying to give [the retirees] more information on how we can help them with some of the questions and concerns they have that sometimes come through the family programs office."

Richar discussed a forthcoming retiree appreciation event, the Survivor Outreach Support program and other military entitlements.

"Over the last 15 years, the government has done a lot for veterans programs and service-related benefits," said Acting Adjutant General of the Pa. National Guard, Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli. "Sometimes there's difficulty in connecting our veterans to these benefits, so we need someone to help make that connection. Having Anna [Richar] here to serve in that role is a huge help in accomplishing that."

So, while retirees were the spotlight of the dinner, it was also enjoyed by those who have yet to hang up their boots.

"This is for current and former 111th [ATKW] people; and I'm former 111th," said Carrelli, the previous 111th ATKW commander. "If I'm in the area, I'm attending this event.

"Not only are there many people here that I met when I first arrived at the Wing, there are people here are that were already retired before I was there. But, just from being at this dinner each year, I've grown to know them--they're 111th and they always will be."