F-16 in the clouds.

Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker, 180th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Three Ohio Air National Guard wings — the 121st Air Refueling Wing, 178th Wing and 180th Fighter Wing — have been recognized again with the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. The award is given to units that demonstrate exceptional meritorious service, accomplish specific acts of outstanding achievement and/or excel in combat operations.

Soaring to Success

Air Force recognizes 3 Ohio ANG wings for outstanding achievement

Story by Bill Pierce, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (3/12/21)

Three Ohio Air National Guard wings have been recognized again with the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, given to units that demonstrate exceptional meritorious service, accomplish specific acts of outstanding achievement and/or excel in combat operations. The period of consideration is typically anywhere from one to two years at a time. Each of these units — the 121st Air Refueling Wing, based in Columbus; 178th Wing, based in Springfield; and 180th Fighter Wing, based in Swanton — have earned the award multiple times.

“The Ohio Air National Guard continues a legacy of excellence,” said Maj. Gen. James A. Camp, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Air. “Receiving an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award acknowledges the commitment of Airmen at all levels, past and present. To those near the end of their careers, keep training your replacements and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. For those just starting out, embrace the future by continuing to improve what’s been built. Excellence is contagious and you are more important to our national security than you realize. ‘Always Ready, Always There’ has taken on new meaning … step up and carry on. Be proud of your unit and never become complacent. Be proud, but remain humbled facing the challenges that lie ahead.”


Airman directs aircraft.

Photo by Senior Airman Christi A. Richter
121st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. Blane Shelley marshals a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flight line at the 121 Air Refueling Wing Oct. 3, 2019, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus, Ohio.

This is the second time in the last three years the 121st Air Refueling Wing was recognized with this award. It is the sixth time the 121ARW has received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (AFOUA).

“Receiving this award is a well-deserved acknowledgement of the selfless dedication of the Airmen of the 121st Air Refueling Wing,” said Col. David Johnson, 121st ARW commander. “To be recognized for outstanding achievement, and honored with the AFOUA, an award that signifies an organization ‘that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units,’ is a testament to the exceptional performance of this wing. The air refueling community has maintained a robust operational tempo for two decades, serving simultaneously in CENTCOM, INDOPACOM, SOUTHCOM, and NORTHCOM (different unified combatant command areas of responsibility), placing this mission set at the peak of combat ops in the United States Air Force. This award validates the sustained effort of the men and women of the 121st ARW, who fully live up to our motto of ‘All Things, At All Times.’”


Airmen check laptop under wing of aircraft.

Photo by Senior Airman Amber Mullen
178th Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 178th Incident Awareness and Assessment team inspect their imagery streaming equipment during preflight inspections Aug. 13, 2019, at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Mich. The IAA team partnered up with the Civil Air Patrol to provide imagery analysis for exercises occurring on the ground and to practice their skills for disaster response situations.

This is the second time in the last three years the 178th Wing has garnered this award, totaling 13 times overall.

“The 178th Airmen are in combat and providing intelligence support to DoD (Department of Defense) agencies across the globe every single day,” said Col. Kimberly Fitzgerald, 178th Wing commander. “Success of those deploy-in-place mission sets depends on the collaborative efforts of every single Airman on the installation, and I am thrilled to see them recognized for their hard work.”


F-16 in air as seen from window of aircraft flying beside it.

Photo by Senior Airman Hope Geiger
180th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 180th Fighter Wing flies over the coast of Florida during a training sortie Feb. 4, 2019, at Patrick Air Force Base.

This is the fourth consecutive year the 180th Fighter Wing has earned the AFOUA. They have received the award a total of eight times since 1979.

“Our Airmen are working hard all around the world, maintaining our federal, state and local missions,” said Col. Michael DiDio, 180th FW commander. “Their dedication and commitment, their sacrifice and resiliency are the very reason the 180th FW and our Airmen continue to be identified as one of the top outstanding units in the U.S. Air Force. We cannot do what we do without our Airmen and their Families, and I could not be more proud of our Stinger Airmen for earning this prestigious award again.”


Originating in 1954, the AFOUA was initially an independent Air Force decoration handed out to Airmen, and until 2004, the most lauded unit award in the U.S. Air Force. All active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units are eligible to receive the award. Any Airman assigned to that unit during the time of consideration is able to display the ribbon on their dress blues uniform ribbon rack. Subsequent multiple awards are signified with bronze and silver oak leaf clusters.

end of story icon  121ST AIR REFUELING WING   |   178TH WING    |   180TH FIGHTER WING    share on facebook


The 179th Airlift Wing conducts a five-ship formation flight using five of their eight C-130H Hercules.

Air Force recognizes two Ohio Air National Guard wings, five GSUs for outstanding achievement

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Boom operator refueling an F-16

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