NEW CASTLE — The Delaware Air National Guard’s 166th Airlift Wing celebrated its 75th anniversary on Sunday.
For 75 years, Delaware Air National Guard has supported national and state objectives with 13 different types of aircraft, including the most recent acquisition of a C-150 in 1991.
Gov. John Carney made remarks at the ceremony, noting the strong emotions that many still felt from the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday.
“Over the past 20 years since 9/11, National Guard, Army and Air units across the country have formed the backbone of our nation’s mission to fight terrorism across the globe,” Gov. Carney said. “The emotion I’m feeling as I look out at all of you, is pride. Proud of your commitment, proud of your incredible resilience, proud of your service to our great country and our state.”
President Joe Biden sent his regards in a video, in which he said it is a great honor for the base headquarters to be named after his son, Joseph “Beau” Biden.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Lt. Gen. Marc Sassville, 12th Flight Chief of the National Guard Unit, also sent their congratulations in a video.
Gov. Carney said the 75th anniversary is all about the retirees and celebrating their contributions. Retired Chief Albert Abbott served 40 years in the Delaware Air National Guard from 1966-2006. He was on the aircrew life support team, which maintained and trained all air crew members how to survive should their plane go down and how to resist and evade capture.
“The unit was a really special unit,” Chief Abbott said. “People knew us all throughout the country. At the time there were 23 other units but people knew Delaware.”
Retired Master Sgt. Jerry Virden served four years in the U.S. Navy before joining the Air National Guard in 1974, and retired in 2011. He was an aircraft mechanic and said the National Guard was like a mixed basket of men from all service branches.
“It’s really nice to be here, but it is overwhelming in some ways because so much has happened,” Sgt. Virden said. “I’m just concentrating on the scenes and saying hi to everyone… I miss the airplanes and miss these guys.”
Retired Chief and Air Technician Edward Blackburn was not only celebrating over 30 years of service in the Delaware Air National Guard, but his 86th birthday. He said the diversity that he saw grow over the years opened up more careers for more people.
“When I joined (the Air National Guard) there were only about 400 people in the whole unit, all men,” Chief Blackburn said. “I remember the first girl that came here and I remember the first Black guy that came to work too.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Hugh Broomall was named the 2022 DEANG Honoree of the year. He enlisted when he was 18 years old and over the course of his 45-year career, educated elected officials on the value and cost efficiency of the National Guard, and successfully secured resources at federal and state levels that saved the closure of the 166th Air Wing during base realignment and closure.
“It’s all about the people here at Delaware (Air National Guard),” he said. “We have a lot of airplanes and hopefully we’ll have a lot more, but it has always been the people that make the difference. Same world purpose, sense of mission, opportunities, we continue that today… The future of the Air Guard looks bright.”
The wing’s operations building was dedicated to the former Adjutant General, the late Carol Timmons. Her wife, Lynn Wass, accepted the honor on her behalf. The building is the first to be named for a woman at the Delaware National Guard.
“I know her spirit is here, most likely wearing her green flight suit, which she loved wearing almost as much as she loved flying the C-130, her favorite aircraft," Ms. Wass said. “She was a woman of many firsts and many accomplishments.”
In her career, Gen. Timmons logged over 5,200 flight hours, including more than 400 combat hours, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women and Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame. She has 37 awards and decorations, including the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star.
An updated version of this story corrects a quote from Ms. Wass.