By Senior Airman Michael Matkin, 161ARW/PA
/ Published March 19, 2009
Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base -- Col. William E. Anderson, outgoing commander of 161st Air Refueling Wing, took off here as navigator in a KC-135 March 5 for his final flight before retiring.
Anderson navigated the air refueling tanker to Albuquerque, NM where they refueled two F-16s and then returned to Phoenix.
Upon exiting the aircraft the crew members dowsed him with a bucket of ice water and then firemen hosed him down with a fire hose. Anderson was then greeted by a large crowd of family, friends, retirees and current members of the unit.
Before the flight, he stood at the railing of the stairs looking out onto the flight line. He said as he was standing there having flash backs of numerous other times especially strong were the memories of anticipation prior to a deployment. He describes standing there trying to waive goodbye to his family until the last possible second as the doors slowly closed.
Anderson shared his thoughts about the 161st saying, "all the people who have come before me and all that will come after me, there have probably been thousands of people who have come through here and every one of them contributed something to get us to where we are today."
"It's a sad day for me, but a great day for the unit," he added
While sad that he is leaving, he feels it is a great opportunity for the unit, because there is new blood coming in with new thoughts and new directions.
"There will be change and that change will be great for the unit," he continued.
"I will miss the people the most, says Anderson, "that will be the hardest thing about leaving. We take for granted the daily relationships we have with people and when it suddenly stops. It is a hard thing to adjust to."
"I care for the men and women of this unit and know they care about me," he added. He really enjoyed going TDY with other members of the unit, getting to know them and doing things with them.
Anderson recounts that as commander he set numerous goals and he accomplished many of those goals, but now is handing off the rest to Col. Steven M. Balser, the incoming commander of the 161st ARW.
"Every commander should want the person who succeeds him to do bigger and better things than they did and Col. Balser is that person," said Anderson.
As commander, he said his greatest accomplishment was brining the unit closer together and giving them what they needed to do their best at their job. He said the successful completion of the ORI was a culmination of that work.
Having completed his final flight, he leaves this advice, "lead by example and command with your heart not your fist."