"Spirit of Arizona" Dedication Ceremony

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein and 1st Lt. Rebecca Garcia
  • 161 ARW Public Affairs
The 161st Air Refueling Wing dedicated the "Spirit of Arizona" June 14 after weeks of painting the Arizona flag on the vertical tail section of the KC-135R Stratotanker 62-3516.

"From nose to tail, the pride of our home state and the appreciation of our unit members is symbolized on our aircraft," said Col. Gary Brewer, 161st ARW commander. "This tail symbolizes how the Arizona National Guard is different; that every time our nation calls, we are always there to provide support."

The tail painting project, which was completed in about three weeks by 40 maintainers, was spearheaded by Col. Joseph Wilson, 161st Maintenance Group Commander

"It looks 100 times better than imagined and I am so proud of the Airmen that volunteered and took ownership of this project," Colonel Wilson said.

The ceremony, which included more than 300 distinguished guests, was designed to promote esprit de corps, pride and teamwork and to recognize the Guard's connection with its community partners.

Joining the "Spirit of Arizona" was the US Airways A319 "Arizona" and Southwest Airlines 737 "Arizona" as a celebration of the partnership with the local community and with Sky Harbor International Airport.

"Almost 70 percent of our workforce is traditional guardsmen and women who work day-to-day throughout our local communities," Colonel Brewer said. "We recruit that 70 percent from our communities and throughout the state which infuses us into the local community."

The US Airways "Arizona" was taxied in by unit member Master Sgt. Andrew Tyree, a traditional guardsmen assigned to the 161st Maintenance Group. Southwest Airlines "Arizona" was taxied in by unit member Lt. Col. Jim Gloss, 197th Air Refueling Squadron Commander.

"We would never be able to fulfill our commitments to our nation, state or community without the support of great organizations like Southwest Airlines and US Airways who I know feel the pain when we pull our employees to cover our nation's needs and deploy them regularly for long periods of time," Colonel Brewer said. "To all of the employers of our guardsmen and women, I salute and thank you for your sacrifice."