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Changing perceptions

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. --

Editor's note: Dedication of Wilson Hall, as delivered by U.S. Air National Guard Col. Edmund Morrisey, Wilson Hall, I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, October 20, 2001.

When I look at the magnificent facilities of the TEC, what I see is the evolution of the Air National Guard.

The veterans of World War II and Korea set the foundation of the current Air National Guard.

What really blindsided us was that civilian and military members considered us less than professional: we were "weekend warriors;" we flew airplanes one weekend a month, we wore argyle socks or none at all, and supposedly played cards 15 days a month during summertime.

Needless to say, this perception did not please us, and we were determined to change it! And change it we did!!

There are many examples of how this was done. Let me cite but three:

In the early 50's the Air Defense Command determined that they needed additional radar coverage in the U.S. and surrounding areas. They selected four Air Guard Tactical Squadrons to provide this service. One of them, with substandard search radar and less than one-half the personnel of an active force radar squadron, became the finest aircraft control and warning unit the world has ever seen.

It was the first non-flying Air National Guard squadron to win the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the Air Defense Command-A Award, the Air Force Association Citation of Honor and the only Air National Guard non-flying unit to be nominated for the prestigious Gen. Thomas D. White [National Defense] Award. It possessed more masters of air defense in that one Air National Guard squadron than existed in the entire Air Force system.

During the turbulent 60's, this unit not only trained reserve forces but trained and evaluated active units as well; this was unheard of at the time! All-the-while performing its air defense mission. An Air National Guard air defense fighter unit twice failed an ORI (the big enchilada), they said it was because of poor radar control [and] they asked if we could come down and fix the problem!! We went! It was the problem!! We fixed it, and the fighter unit passed the next ORI with flying colors.

In 1958, the Florida Air National Guard won the worldwide fighter weapons meet known as "William Tell." The Air Force leadership said, Oh! No, the Air Force advisor flew lead and the radar control was provided by active Air Force personnel.

[Maj. Gen. Winston P.] Wimpy Wilson, chief for the National Guard Bureau for whom this building is named, said, from now on, we will field an all Air National Guard team.

In 1959, the Air National Guard was invited to participate in the F-104 category (a multi-Mach, radar-equipped top of the line air defense fighter). What did we have: an old day fighter, the F-100A at our unit in Tucson, Ariz. The F-100A had no radar, so we improvised and installed what we affectingly called the Cecz sonar. The rules of engagement required each team to have a full colonel as a team captain. Tucson had to go to their Wing in California to get Col. Geo Edmands, who three months prior to the weapons meet had never flown the F-100!

I would like to tell you that we won, but we came in 2nd. We were beaten by 100 points: a number two man lost 300 points for failure to say he saw the target. Air National Guard Capt. John Guice (who would later become Director of the Air National Guard down the road) was the TOP Gun! But the die was cast in 1963; the Air National Guard won it all!!!

In 1968, Maj. Gen. I.G. Brown created what is now known as the TEC; BEFORE HIM THERE WAS NOTHING. Initially, it was a bare-bones operation, i.e. facilities, monies, and personnel.

The faculty was primarily highly motivated noncommissioned officers determined that the schoolhouse would be second to none. In three years they created three different schools: Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Airman Leadership School and Officer Preparatory Academy (forerunner of the Academy of Military Science). Their students were from the AFRES, ARNG, ANG and the USAF.

In addition to creative curriculum; mission and motivation to excel were stressed to each and every student. It was not long before the Community College of the U.S. Air Force determined that this schoolhouse was the front runner in enlisted professional military education. Faculty members possessed B.A., B.S., M.A. and Ph.D.'s. This center was the first PME center to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges at the college level! Faculty members sat on the SACA evaluation boards for both military and civilian schools.

The first officer candidate class was five weeks long and conducted primarily by NCOs. We found that we had ten pounds in a five-pound bag. We extended the program to six weeks, which it remains today.

We recruited officer faculty that now includes representatives of the USAF, AFRES as well as the ANG. This faculty is a creative bunch; they do not take their hats off to anybody.

They have many firsts in officer development: historically, officer candidate programs were based on negative motivation (do it wrong take the hit), AMS approached it differently (do it right good things happen); a female faculty member having command of an all-male flight; inserting non-verbal communication into the curriculum; a co-ed dorm; and rotating positions of responsibility as that no grey shadows end up receiving a commission. For you see, they are challenged to prepare OC's to be officers as well as to determine those who do not merit the honor. No one does it better!!!

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked, "What is the Air National Guard? Who are you? I would be a wealthy man!

Here is my response: In 1968, two weeks after arriving at Phan Rang Air Base, the Air National Guard's 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron was visited by Gen. Westmoreland wishing to speak to the Commander, Col. Bob Cherry.

Gen. Westmorland said, welcome to South Vietnam, when will you be able to start flying combat missions?

Col. Cherry replied, Sir, we just completed our 172nd combat mission!!!

That's who we are!!!!!!

 Finally, let us close with a moment of silent thought for our military men and women and the fine young warriors in front of us who are completing their studies and may be going in harms' way.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Morrisey was Commandant of the first Noncommissioned Officer Academy class here and the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center's founding Commander. He retired in 1983 but continues his support of the TEC on campus and inspires students and staff to this day. Additionally, AMS moved to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 2009.