176th Wing Recognized as Air Force Outstanding Unit Published March 26, 2008 By Staff Sgt. Eric Hamilton 176th Wing Public Affairs KULIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Alaska -- The Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing was recognized with the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its service to the nation from Aug. 31, 2005, to Sept. 1, 2007. "To be recognized as one of the premier units in the United States Air Force is a tremendous accomplishment in which our Alaska Air Guard members should be very proud," said Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. "Here in Alaska we see how valuable our Guard members are on a daily basis, and it's gratifying that their hard work and dedication is acclaimed on a national level." "I am deeply honored; this is a competitive award," said Brig. Gen. Tony Hart, commander of the 176th Wing. "There is no doubt our organization meets the high criteria the award solicits." Among the successes cited by the award were the Wing's mobilization and deployments supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, as well as Operation Jump Start, the nation's southwestern border patrol mission. The Wing was also praised for sustaining normal peacetime airlift operations and 24-hour rescue alert. "Our list of accomplishments during this time included numerous examples of meritorious service and outstanding achievement," Hart said. "These were all made possible by an organization of dedicated traditional and full-time Guard members working around the clock, seven days a week to protect our nation's borders and help secure our interests abroad." Simultaneously, the 176th Wing supported Hurricane Katrina relief saving 1,282 lives and evacuating 11,927 people. The rescue detachment successfully rescued a downed Airman from an F-15/F-16 mid-air collision, and all four flying squadrons received national media coverage for the Cougar Ace mission, rescuing 23 people from a listing ship and earning the Jolly Green Association Rescue Mission of the Year Award. The 176th Air Control Squadron maintained North American air sovereignty by detecting, monitoring and escorting 22 Russian bombers from within its area of operations. The Wing continued to provide community support, maintaining the 51-year Operation Santa Claus tradition of delivering Christmas gifts to remote Alaska villages. The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award was first created in 1954, just seven years after the Air Force was formed. It is presented to commands of the U.S. Air Force -- including Reserve and Air National Guard units -- which perform: "exceptionally meritorious service, accomplish specific acts of outstanding achievement, excel in combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or conduct with distinction military operations involving conflict with, or exposure to, a hostile action by any opposing foreign force."