A wall of Connecticut Air National Guardsmen stood at attention Saturday afternoon at Bradley Air Base to receive their long-awaited next mission.
They did it with smiles, with the dedication the 103rd Airlift Wing is known for and the professionalism that earned them the prestigious new mission.
Only, today they did it without pay.
The celebration, attended by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, U.S. Rep. John Larson and state and local officials, unveiled the C-130, a tactical aircraft used for airborne assault, search and rescue, paradrops and other important missions in combat theaters around the world.
The assignment of the C-130s to the Flying Yankees is good news that ensures the future of the unit, according to Colonel Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd Airlift Wing.
“We’ve been in kind of a turmoil and uncertainty. Now we have a path. It means we will be here serving and relevant for decades to come,” Detorie said after the ceremony.
Malloy heralded the day as a win for the Flying Yankees and for Connecticut, despite the backdrop of the government shutdown and impending layoffs at Sikorsky.
“At a time…. when funding and support for our National Guard has been challenged… this new mission represents a long term investment in our Flying Yankees,” he said.
Larson, who with Sen. Joe Courtney had been working on bringing the C-130 to Connecticut since 2007, said that it was made possible because of the dedication of the men and women of the 103rd.
“It is because of the reputation of the men and women here in Connecticut, the 103rd, that this funding came through. You made it easy for Joe Courtney and myself and the Connecticut delegation,” he said.
Detorie, addressing the guardsmen, said that whether they were serving the people of Connecticut by responding to natural disasters or deployed overseas, their work was outstanding.
“You left no choice but to invest in you …and Bradley Air Base,” he said.
But each of the speakers took the opportunity to express their outrage at what Malloy called “this foolishness going on in Washington,” because of which initial training on the C-130 had been cancelled.
“I wondered what would happen if I hosted a 103rd roll out ceremony and no one showed up,” Detorie said. “Fortunately that didn’t happen… despite many of you being furloughed... you all came up anyway. That’s representative of the dedication, passion and excitement you all have.”