The 111th ATKW bids farewell to foundation stone of ANG family

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Shaffer
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
Despite the sweltering temperatures, a jam-packed auditorium comprised of members from across the 111th Attack Wing recognized the 270th Engineering and Installation Squadron's Lt. Col. Geno Rapone during a retirement ceremony here August 13.

The former 270th EIS commander was honored and publically retired from uniformed military service with the Air National Guard in an event attended by family, friends, colleagues and fellow service members. Among the guests of the day's festivities were: his wife Tanya, their sons Michael and Matthew, his parents Geno and Loretta Rapone, his mother-in-law Marlis Dutton and close friends Mark and Anissa Lo Sasso along with their daughter Scarlett.

Rapone's 25-plus years of service leave behind a legacy of family precedence, dedication to the mission and remarkable leadership.

Family first

Keeping the family first was the overwhelming theme that echoed throughout the emotional farewell salute to Rapone, his wife and two enthusiastic sons. Visible by the outpouring of attendees, it was bittersweet event. The 111th ATKW bestowed sentiments of appreciation for the many years of unwavering service, dedicated time and hours of mentorship he instilled upon countless Guardsmen throughout his uniformed career.

During the ceremony, Col. William Griffin, Vice Commander of the 111th Attack Wing, spoke about his time in service with Rapone.

"I just want to stress what's truly important to Geno, his faith, his family and his Air Force," said Griffin. "During my interactions with Geno throughout the years, conversation on family always managed to work its way into discussion."

Griffin then addressed Rapone's wife and children saying, "Tanya...Michael and Matthew, you are the very fiber of his being and you can see it all the time."

Tanya stated that she and her family were grateful and blessed for their military experience and military family, and that they are very proud of their military family and Air Force heritage.

"We wouldn't have done it any other way; I would've supported him to the end," she said. "You can't put a price on the loyalty, dedication, love, service and sacrifice that military members and their families make."

Dedication to mission

The Wing's vice commander hinted that Rapone's departure leaves a difficult role to fill. He explained that the Wing leadership was posturing Rapone to continue making great strides.

"The guy is just really good at what he does, the thing you have to understand about Geno is that he was still climbing as he's getting out [of the military]," said Griffin. "He was still ascending with the throttles up.

"With Geno leaving behind such big shoes to fill, the individual I truly feel sorry for the most is the person who has to take command of the squadron that Geno has just left."

A legacy of leadership

Rapone's commitment to the Air Force core value of excellence was witnessed through the actions of those he led.

"When I say he's a great squadron mate, what I mean is that his squadron mates will walk through fire with him. That's just the kind of Airman he is," said Griffin. "The sad part of today is that we lose an incredible mentor in Geno Rapone. And that's not just for folks that are peers or subordinates; that includes those in command of Geno, who have also learned a great deal from Geno."

Although a ceremony to honor his service, Rapone used the event to bestow leadership advice to his fellow Air Guard members.

"To the officers, put the right people in place and enable them. And when you enable them, let them go. Let them do their jobs; they know what to do. They will take care of you and they will take care of the squadron. Don't micromanage them."

He also addressed the lower and middle-enlisted members of his Guard family.

"To the Airmen, keep your ears open, listen and learn. Watch the good things and the bad things and it'll be your turn very soon. And to the (noncommissioned officers), who are the backbone of the Air Force, make sure you keep things in control. I couldn't have done all of this without the help of the NCO's."

Final words

Rapone concluded his retirement ceremony by summing up his military experience to the immense crowd that gathered in his honor.

"The best thing that ever happened to me was coming into the Air National Guard," he said. "I love the Air Force; but coming into the Air Guard was fantastic."

The importance of family was steeped in his final words as a Guardsmen.

"It's all about family, I have my family at home and I also have my Air Force family and I'm going to miss that," said Rapone.

"This has truly been one of the greatest things I have ever done with my life and I don't think I'll be doing anything as important ever again in this lifetime, other than spend time with my two boys and my family," said Rapone with a lump in his throat. "Thanks for being there with me, I'll miss every one of you."