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Pa.'s Air Guard AOG bids "Aloha" during deactivation ceremony

Col. Thomas James, left, 111th Air Operations Group commander, removes the 111th AOG streamer from the 111th Operations Group guidon in order to hand it to the 111th Attack Wing Commander Col. Howard Eissler during the 111th AOG deactivation ceremony held Feb. 6, 2016 at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. After five years of high-tempo operations, the 111th AOG will be officially deactivated this March. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Col. Thomas James, left, 111th Air Operations Group commander, removes the 111th AOG streamer from the guidon in order to hand it to the 111th Attack Wing Commander Col. Howard Eissler during the 111th AOG deactivation ceremony held Feb. 6, 2016 at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. After five years of high-tempo operations, the 111th AOG will be officially deactivated this March. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Retired Master Sgt. Jim Waibel, the 111th Attack Wing historian, clutches the 111th Air Operations Group streamer after it had been removed during a deactivation ceremony held Feb. 6, 2016 at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. The 111th AOG was a high-tempo operations group on base for five years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Retired Master Sgt. Jim Waibel, the 111th Attack Wing historian, clutches the 111th Air Operations Group streamer after it had been removed during a deactivation ceremony held Feb. 6, 2016 at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. The 111th AOG was a high-tempo operations group on base for five years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Members of the 111th Air Operations Group at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, stand in formation for the final time during the 111th AOG deactivation ceremony held Feb. 6, 2016. Many members of the group will be reassigned to other units within the Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Members of the 111th Air Operations Group at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, stand in formation for the final time during the 111th AOG deactivation ceremony held Feb. 6, 2016. Many members of the group will be reassigned to other units within the Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- After five years of high-tempo operations, the 111th Attack Wing's  111th Air Operations Group pronounced its deactivation this March during a ceremony held in the Wing headquarters building here Feb. 6.

The 111th AOG's mission was to organize, train and equip Guardsmen to integrate into combatant commanders' Air Force forces (AFFOR) and Air Operations Center (AOC) staffs worldwide by providing operational-level command and control; contingency and crisis action planning; execution of that planning; and all force support activities. 

"It was an outstanding mission, an outstanding run and the AOG folks did an incredible job," said Col. Howard Eissler, current 111th ATKW commander and former 111th AOG commander.  "They've made their mark."

The 111th AOG supported campaigns for 7th Air Force, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea; U.S. Pacific Command, with headquarters located near Honolulu, Hawaii; and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, directing air operations in a tri-continental theater.

Additionally, the AOG participated in many state missions by providing planning support to civil authorities regarding the use and capabilities of the AFFOR at the direction of the Governor - to include the Papal Visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, last September and the presidential inauguration.

State operations for the AOG included, but were not limited to, providing protection of life and property, preserving the peace, order and public safety, protection of vital public services and support to civil defense.

During the ceremony, Eissler pointed out that it wasn't the mission that made the group remarkable, but the people involved.

"It's not really about the mission; it's about the people that do the mission," said Eissler. "I'm confident that our folks will do any mission the Air Force assigns to us and we will do it in an excellent manner."

Despite the pending loss, the Air National Guard continues its commitment to the profession of arms. Numerous members from the disbanding group are slated to transfer to the other units within the Wing and continue their military service here.

"It's bittersweet," said Acting Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Brig. Gen Tony Carrelli, who was the 111th ATKW commander during the AOG's launch here. "And the Air Force does not want this mission to go away; unfortunately, there are other missions that take priority and we're fortunate to get some of those, which is where we're pursuing the manpower."

The 111th AOG, like many Air National Guard organizations, has taken the alteration in stride and looks forward to the 111th ATKW's new missions - remotely-piloted aircraft and cyberspace operations.

Remaining flexible to meet the needs of ever-evolving contingencies by deactivating and establishing new missions or units is not a new concept in the National Guard. This is especially true for Horsham Air Guard Station.

September 2011, the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove completed the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process with Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Reserve units being designated to alternate locations. An Air National Guard unit, an Army National Guard unit and an Army Reserve unit remained with the installation gaining it's current name. Then in June 2014, the Air National Guard component here, 111th Fighter Wing, was renamed the 111th Attack Wing to better identify with its new mission -- a control center for the MQ-9 Reaper.

Carrelli said that multiple state missions throughout the National Guard have experienced similar role changes over the past eight to 10 years.

"There is a lot of transition going on out there," said Carrelli. "The world is going to continue to change and the National Guard is going to continue to change with it."