Touhill comes 'home' to Keesler

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Twenty-four years ago Monday, a new second lieutenant began his Air Force career in basic communications officer training at Keesler.

Oct. 2, now Col. Greg Touhill took command of the 81st Training Wing during a ceremony on the parade field.

"Over the past 24 years, my Keesler training has been invaluable," said Colonel Touhill after accepting the wing's guidon from Brig. Gen. Paul Capasso. "Although not targeted at any particular assignment, it prepared me for every posting I've had. From duties in air defense, radars, supporting strategic bombers, air mobility, space systems, logistics and programming -- I was ready, thanks to Keesler's training.

"If there are any of my former instructors in the audience today, I'd like to thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience," re-marked the new commander, whose previous assignment was director of communications at Air Mobility Command headquarters, Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "And for you Airmen out there, listen to your instructors -- you never know when they'll pass along that golden nugget that could make your career or save a life. Keesler training is the key to your success in the Air Force and throughout the rest of your life.

"Keesler is where the Air Force's experts are created, and I'm so anxious to learn from you and with you," he told the wing's personnel. "Keesler has a global reputation as the world's premier technical training location, and it's because of you."

Colonel Touhill thanked community leaders for welcoming him and his wife, Charlene, back to the Biloxi area. He also noted that his previous two training periods at Keesler "were our favorite assignments -- we had a wonderful time here, both as a family and as part of a great community."

"Hurricane Katrina's devastation was terrible, but we can't help being incredibly impressed by your strength, character and grace in rebuilding an even better Gulf Coast community," he said.

In acknowledging his predecessor, Colonel Touhill admitted, "I have size 50 shoes to fill. I want to thank the Capassos for all they've done for Keesler and the community during their tenure. In the aftermath of the nation's worst natural disaster, your leadership, energy and vision have been nothing short of remarkable."

General Capasso, who was awarded the Legion of Merit during the change-of-command ceremony, said he and his wife, Laura, were honored to be a part of Team Keesler for nearly two years.

"What you've accomplished and what you will accomplish to close the final chapter of Hurricane Katrina will define your legacy," the general pointed out. "Day by day, you've shattered the accepted notions of what is possible. There are no constraints on your ingenuity, no walls around your human spirit and no human barriers to your progress.

"You've brought new meaning to the term 'excellence,'" he continued. "You've cared more than others thought was wise, dreamed more than others thought was practical and expected more than others thought was possible. I assure you, the summit is in reach and the view is magnificent."

General Capasso, who's headed to Stuttgart, Germany, as director of command, control, communications and computer systems for U.S. Africa Command, was recognized by Maj. Gen. Mike Gould, 2nd Air Force commander, for his leadership during "the toughest time in Keesler's history."

General Gould, who presided at the ceremony, described Colonel Touhill as "the perfect officer to continue Keesler's momentum full of energy, vigor and great vision to move this wing forward."