The Wisconsin Air National Guard's 128th Air Control Squadron earned the right to call itself the best in the Air Force.
The unit, based at Volk Field in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period ranging from fall 2011 to fall 2013, while participating in its annual training at Operation Northern Strike at the Alpena Combat Regional Training Center in Alpena, Michigan. The award, which identifies them as the top air control squadron in the Air Force, is the fifth in the 128th's history.
Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, the assistant adjutant general for the Wisconsin Air National Guard, Col. Dave Romuald, the commander of the Volk Field Combat Training Readiness Center, and Command Chief Master Sergeant Gregory Cullen were all on hand to present the award to the Airmen of the 128th and their commander, Lt. Col. Gerard Iverson.
"To me, these are pretty special," Iverson said, "because it is all of us getting the job done in an exceptional manner. It just shows you the history and the lineage of those individuals that have come before us and the outstanding performance that they have had as an air control squadron.
"There are not a lot of Airmen throughout the Air Force that have an Air Force Outstanding Unit ribbon award, so please be proud of that," he added.
According to the award citation, the unit was selected for its "exceptional" command and control operations while deployed to the Middle East in 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While deployed, the 128th ACS provided airspace surveillance, threat warning capabilities and theater command and control.
The outstanding unit award is the latest in a string of lofty honors for the ACS. The unit also claims the Air Force's First Sergeant of the Year in Master Sgt. Linda Schwartzlow. Schwartzlow recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C., where she was formally presented with the honor.
"A couple times I've been able to observe the air control squadron, and each time I've come away very impressed," Brig. Gen. Ebben said.
Ebben noted how difficult it is to win the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
"It's very competitive," he told the assembled Airmen of the 128th. "In the state of Wisconsin, we've had some units submitted with extremely good credentials and not be selected. So the fact that you're selected is not a small deal, and it speaks volumes to everything that you've all accomplished for that two-year period."
Each Airman in the 128th will receive a ribbon to wear on their uniform.
Ebben, Romuald and Cullen took the opportunity to see the ACS in action as it performed its mission for Operation Northern Strike, a three-week exercise that concludes Aug. 23, in Alpena. More than 165 Airmen, almost the entire unit, participated in the exercise.
The unit joined others from around the country at Northern Strike, which included bombers, fighters, cargo planes and close-air support assets from the Air National Guard as well as Army National Guard infantry and aviation forces.
The 128th ACS packed up almost all of its equipment and convoyed through northern Wisconsin, upper Michigan and over the Mackinaw Bridge to Alpena - no small logistical accomplishment.
"This exercise - this annual training - speaks volumes to everyone's dedication, perseverance and willingness to get the job done," Iverson told his unit.
The exercise itself tested the unit's ability to support air-to-air combat, air-to-ground combat, dynamic targeting, and other skills required of an ACS.