Texans launch historical honorary commanders' program

  • Published
  • By Mrs. Julie Briden-Garcia
  • 136th Airlift Wing

The 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, welcomed their first group of honorary commanders, seven in total, during an induction ceremony August 9, 2023, on Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.

The honorary commanders will serve as military advocates within their spheres of influence, helping to bridge gaps in the employer-guardsman relationship. This relationship builds insight into Air Force customs and traditions for the honorary commanders, while wing commanders can, in turn, receive their advice and support regarding regional and state issues affecting civilians and military members.

A veteran to the honorary commanders’ program with the 301st Fighter Wing, Mrs. Kerre Randel Ortegel, is appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about our military and its service members.

“Being bestowed the role of an honorary commander for the 136th Airlift Wing is not just an honor, but a profound privilege,” said Randel Ortegel. “It's an opportunity to stand alongside the dedicated men and women who exemplify the values of excellence, service, and unity.”

Supporting the 136th AW’s mission, the wing elected to establish an Honorary Commander Program.  The 136th AW Honorary Commander “Guardians” Program invites civic leaders to join a hands-on community partnership focused on building relationships and their knowledge of military education. Objectives include increasing public awareness and understanding of the Air National Guard, its mission, and most importantly, its Citizen Airmen, who must balance the Guard triad — family, employer, and military service.

“I am confident the 136th and all the units under its umbrella will benefit immensely with [the incoming honorary commanders] giving their wisdom and guidance,” said Mr. Rick Irving, the 181st Airlift Squadron’s first honorary commander. “I am both honored and humbled by my own selection as an honorary commander. Please know that I am committed to upholding the responsibilities that come with this role. My aim is to make you and the 136th proud by giving my utmost dedication and support.”

Each honorary commander is paired with a group or squadron commander and given a behind-the-scenes look at the mission and our Airmen. Col. Groves, 136th Airlift Wing commander, advocates building these relationships with our local communities.

“When we dedicate time to providing [our] knowledge to civic groups, local leaders, and private organizations, we immediately find common goals, symbiotic opportunities, and goodness ensues, usually with exponential return on investment,” he said.

Col. Groves selected these inductees from local civic leader nominations produced earlier this year. During their two-year term, they will be invited to various events to support our Citizen Airmen and see how the Guard, Reserve, Active Duty, and civilian components operate to accomplish total force integration.

When addressing the inductees during the ceremony, Col. Groves gave a special request.

“Some of you have done this before and some have not, but you all have learned the lessons leading to success,” Groves said. “Please teach us. Mentor us. Help us to lead well, with compassion, and to be worthy of the responsibility we’re entrusted with.

Building a strong relationship with these honorary commanders will be instrumental toward fostering continued understanding, public support, and positive employer relationships for our unit and the Texas Air National Guard mission.

“In the coming weeks and months, we will teach you about our organizations, our structure, our missions, and our challenges,” Groves said. “We will show you our facilities and aspire to put you in an airplane (if you want). We will ask you to attend our drill weekends; to feel the energy of 1,000 Airmen working towards common goals, and we’ll ask you to address those Airmen and provide them with your perspective and wisdom.”

Serving in the military means those wearing the cloth of this great nation serve together, work and live as one big family. Col. Groves invited the honorary commanders to become part of that big family.

“This wing is truly a family,’ said Groves. “It is not uncommon to encounter members with 30-plus years of service in this wing! When one of us suffers, we all hurt, but when one of us succeeds, we all feel the pride.  You are all part of our family now.”