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TEC honors OPA staff on 40th anniversary

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Col. Bradley McRee, left, TEC commander, and retired Col. Edmund Morrisey, right, the first TEC commander, present the center's honorary faculty award to retired Col. Russ Gregory, center, for his contributions in 1971 to the Officer Preparatory Academy during a ceremony held in Spruance Hall on the campus of The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center, May 6, 2011.  The event was held on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the program.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Col. Bradley McRee, left, and retired Col. Edmund Morrisey, right, present the center's honorary faculty award to retired Col. Russ Gregory, center, for his contributions in 1971 to the Officer Preparatory Academy during a ceremony held in Spruance Hall on the campus of The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center, May 6, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center hosted a ceremony at Spruance Hall on May 6, to honor retired Air Force Col. Russ Gregory for his contributions to the Officer Preparatory Academy on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

In 1971, Gregory was an integral part of the success of the Air National Guard's brand new officer commissioning program, the Officer Preparatory Academy.

Known at the time as the Air National Guard Academy, the TEC was busy educating enlisted leaders at its Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Leadership School when the National Guard Bureau asked it to create a program that would prepare men and women to be officers in the Air National Guard.

At the time, many Air National Guard officers received a direct commission and no formal training.

When retired Col. Ed Morrisey, the center's first commander and who is still involved in its activities at age 82, asked how much time he had to prepare, he was surprised by the answer: 30 days to create the five-week program.

A phone call to the Air Force's Officer Training School produced the help he needed.

"They sent this bright and shiny captain, Russ Gregory," said Morrisey.

With two years experience as an Air Force OTS instructor, Gregory spent six weeks at the TEC advising its staff on the airmanship and officership aspects of training officer candidates while they conducted their first class.

"He was everywhere, I don't believe he ever slept a wink," said Morrisey. "He was in the classroom, he was on the parade ground, he was on the drill field, and he was there when we did our operations exercise."

To honor Gregory's contributions to the program, Morrisey and Col. Bradley McRee, the current TEC commander, presented the center's honorary faculty award to him.

Gregory said he was touched, "It was a great experience to be here. We had a good time, the entire staff was eager to learn and make this program work."

"We didn't want to let him go because he had his act together," Morrisey told an audience of former commanders, commandants and staff members of the Officer Preparatory Academy who gathered to honor Gregory and share their memories of the program.

"We really appreciate what you did, you got us headed in the right direction and the (program) is magnificent today," said Morrisey.

From those early days at the Officer Preparatory Academy, the TEC created a premiere training program that still exists today.

"One of the beauties of this operation, is we were able to innovate, motivate and change things," said Morrisey. "What drove us was how do we make this program better for the new officer and for the Air National Guard."

The Officer Preparatory Academy is now known as the Academy of Military Science. In 2009, after more than 38 years at the TEC, it relocated to Maxwell AFB, Ala., to form a partnership with the Air Force Officer Training School.

Today's celebration was held in concurrence with the commissioning ceremony of 117 new second lieutenants of the Academy of Military Science Class 11-04.

To date, more than 15,400 officers have been commissioned through this program.