Wingman ... leader ... warrior

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Valle
  • 81st Training Wing commander
This week we said farewell to our leader, Brig. Gen. Gregory Touhill, as he completed an outstanding 18 months as commander of the 81st Training Wing. 

General Touhill departs this weekend for CAPSTONE, an intensive six-week general officer course consisting of classroom seminars and visits to key United States military commands within the continental U.S. and overseas. 

Upon his return from CAPSTONE in late May, he, Charlene and Kate will depart for Kuwait City, where General Touhill will become the Chief of Military Cooperation for U.S. Central Command. His leadership will be missed, but his legacy of excellence will continue unabated through you and me. 

While I'm sure if you ask him, General Touhill will tell you how quickly his command tour passed, when you stop and consider all that occurred under his command, you cannot help but be amazed. 

General Touhill took the reins of the 81st Training Wing in October 2007, in the midst of recovery from this nation's single largest natural disaster. He came to Keesler with a vision to "Rebuild the base, Renew ties with the Community and continue to Reload the Air Force" with highly-trained and motivated Airman. No doubt he succeeded, but this mission continues for us to carry forward. 

General Touhill shepherded a $985 million rebuilding effort that includes the largest military family housing project in Air Force history. Under his leadership, more than 521 projects were started, and 97 percent of them have already been completed. Very soon, the 403rd Wing will take delivery of the consolidated aircraft maintenance facility on the flightline, and the commissary and base exchange complex is looking great, targeting an opening event early next year. Our new events center is taking shape, with the road finished and improved access to Bay Ridge housing. Next golf season we will enjoy this wonderful quality of life improvement. 

But as these physical manifestations of 'rebuild' come out of the ground, we must focus on rebuilding the processes and policies that have helped Air Force organizations execute with consistency and excellence. Keesler continues to lead the way in renewing our ties with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community and renewing valuable resources along the way. During General Touhill's command, over 7,100 wing personnel volunteered more than 114,000 hours in support of Mississippi Gulf Coast projects and events, helping build houses and playgrounds, painting and cleaning or just helping neighbors who can't help themselves. Through his "Go Green" initiatives, General Touhill created bike patrols for our security forces, saving almost 15,000 gallons of fuel per year. Keesler recycled more than 2,200 tons of material, including the old concrete from our demolished houses. 

And finally, true to our mission, the 81st Training Wing continues to reload the Air Force with the best trained, most highly motivated professional Airman. More than 32,500 Airman have graduated from Keesler programs in the past year, including 274 international students from 41 foreign countries. Keesler even graduated our first-ever all foreign officer class in airfield operations -- what a great victory for our training team! Keesler has set the stage for success in cyber training, transitioning courses ahead of the growing demand for this critical enabler. 

True to his word and true to his Airman's Creed, General Touhill leaves Keesler 'better than he found it' and on a continued pathway of excellence. We wish him, Charlene and Kate well as they transition to Kuwait -- I know Andrew will always remain connected, whether virtually or in person. 

I know that the Touhill family has enjoyed calling the Mississippi Gulf Coast home three times already -- hopefully they will grace us with their presence again soon. Until then, as they say in the Navy, fair winds and following seas, God Bless the Touhill family, and thank you for your leadership.