127th Wing earns top honors

The 127th Wing has been awarded the Carl A. Spaatz Trophy as the top flying unit in the U.S. National Guard. The trophy is presented annually by the National Guard Association of the United States. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Terry Atwell)

The 127th Wing has been awarded the Carl A. Spaatz Trophy as the top flying unit in the U.S. National Guard. The trophy is presented annually by the National Guard Association of the United States. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Terry Atwell)

The 127th Wing is seen at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in this May 12, 2016, photo. The photo is the first mass formation photo of the wing in at least 25 years. The Airmen at Selfridge are ramping up for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Selfridge Field in July 1917. Selfridge is one of the oldest continuously operating military air fields in the nation. The 127th Wing is a component of the Michigan Air National Guard and has been the host unit at Selfridge since 1971. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Ryan Zeski)

The 127th Wing is seen at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in this May 12, 2016, photo. The photo is the first mass formation photo of the wing in at least 25 years. The Airmen at Selfridge are ramping up for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Selfridge Field in July 1917. Selfridge is one of the oldest continuously operating military air fields in the nation. The 127th Wing is a component of the Michigan Air National Guard and has been the host unit at Selfridge since 1971. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Ryan Zeski)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- The 127th Wing has been award two of the military's top honors.

The wing has been awarded the Meritorious Unit Award by the Air Force for the wing's recent record of performance both in and in support of combat operations. The award includes a ribbon that all current members of the wing will be authorized to add to their uniform.

The Meritorious Unit Award came just days after 127th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum was presented with the Carl A. Spaatz Award, denoting the top National Guard flying unit in the nation. The trophy was presented by the National Guard Association of the United States at that organization's annual convention.

"These awards acknowledge the incredibly high level at which our Airmen have been performing," Slocum said. "Across the wing, in every single squadron, individually and as a team, our Airmen are simply the best. It is difficult to find adequate superlatives to describe the performance of our Selfridge Citizen-Airmen. When we consider that 70 percent of the members of our wing serve on a part-time basis, this award speaks to the commitment of an entire community to our Air Force mission."

The 127th Wing, a component of the Michigan Air National Guard based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., is comprised of approximately 1,700 Airmen, including both uniformed and civilian personnel. The wing is one of only a handful in the Air Force that flies two different types of aircraft, in this case the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker.

The Meritorious Unit Award is presented only in cases where "superior performance of exceptionally difficult tasks ... set it apart and above other units with similar missions. Superior performance of normal mission will not alone justify award of the (award)." Further, the service in question "must be directly related to the combat effort," according to the award criteria.

Slocum announced the receipt of the unit citation at the biennial 127th Wing Ball, at which wing Airmen enjoy a formal dinner.

The 127th Wing initially learned of the award of the Spaatz Trophy in July. It was formally presented on Sept. 11, at a gathering that included general officers and senior leaders from across the nation.

"Your work is being recognized at the highest levels of our military," Slocum said to 127th Wing Airmen. "You -- and your families - should be very proud of the work you have done and are doing on behalf of our state and nation."

Slocum noted that that the awards come not only honor the recent work done by the 127th Wing, but showcase the ability of the wing's Airmen to be successful in any future opportunities.

"As we work with the Air Force leadership team and consider possible future mission and aircraft assignments at Selfridge, possibly to include consideration of a squadron of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, we can simply point at the current accolades of the wing to make the argument that our Airmen are ready to meet the next challenge," the general said.

The two new awards specifically recognize the operations in the wing over the past two years.

Both of the wing's aircraft types were deployed extensively in 2015 and 127th Wing Airmen engaged in extensive combat operations in Operation Inherent Resolve. A-10 Airmen from the Wing engaged in more than airpower 1,700 combat sorties and the first combat use of a new type of munition on A-10C aircraft. The Wing's KC-135's recorded the highest levels of use of any refueling aircraft in the combat theater in 2015. The Wing's 127th Air Refueling Group, which operates the KC-135s, also earning an unprecedented 100 percent score for both command and control procedures and general knowledge testing during a major operational readiness inspection at home station, even while a significant portion of the group's Airmen were deployed overseas.

For much of the roughly middle half of 2015, more than 500 Airmen from the 127th Wing and more than a dozen aircraft were deployed - the largest single, sustained deployment of the 127th Wing since the Korean War in the early 1950s.

In 2016, 127th Wing Airmen deployed en masse to a training exercise in Latvia - one of the Michigan National Guard's two State Partnership for Peace partner nations - to not only showcase the ability of the Michigan Guard to quickly deploy to Europe if needed, but to build upon a highly-successful friendship that has developed between Michigan and the Latvian Armed Forces. Also in 2016, Michigan Airmen worked with Latvians and several other partner nations - as well as thousands of U.S. Guard and reserve troops -- at Northern Strike, a Michigan-hosted exercise at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

The awards come as the 127th Wing begins ramping up planning for a number of 2017 events designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of Selfridge Field. The military took possession of the former Joy Aviation Field on July 1, 1917, about two and a half months after the U.S. officially entered World War I. The first military flight at the base took place on July 8 and military flight operations have been ongoing ever since. The 100th anniversary events will be capped with an open house and air show on Aug. 19-20, 2017. In an interesting quirk of history, Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, who was the first chief of staff of the Air Force after the service became an independent branch of the U.S. military in 1947, held his first command posting while stationed at Selfridge Field as the commander of the 1st Pursuit Group in 1922-24. A street on the base is named in the general's honor.