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Chief of Staff visits Utah Air National Guard

Gen. Mark A Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, listens as an Airman from the Utah Air National Guard asks him a question during the Q-and-A portion of an All Call held at the Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base on Oct. 14, 2015. More than 400 full-time and traditional Guardsmen were in attendance to hear Gen. Welsh’s remarks. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Annie Edwards/Released)

Gen. Mark A Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, listens as an Airman from the Utah Air National Guard asks him a question during the Q-and-A portion of an All Call held at the Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base on Oct. 14, 2015. More than 400 full-time and traditional Guardsmen were in attendance to hear Gen. Welsh’s remarks. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Annie Edwards/Released)

Salt Lake City -- The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, served as distinguished guest speaker during an all-call Oct. 14 at Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base, with more than 400 full-time and traditional Guardsmen in attendance.

"I'm here for two reasons," Welsh said. "To say thank you for all you do, and to introduce you to my wife, Betty...because she's magic," he said, prompting cheers and applause from the crowd.

Welsh highlighted a number of topics relevant to Guardsmen, including increased ops tempo, work-life balance, and total force integration.

Welsh's remarks were emotional at times, in particular when referencing his father, a former Air Force pilot who he said he considers "the true hero in the family." Other comments, including how the PT test "keeps him honest and away from the Oreos" were lighthearted, eliciting resounding laughter from the crowd.

In addition to the all-call, Welsh received briefings on the Utah Air National Guard's legacy, mission, capabilities, and partnerships. He also attended a lunch with commanders from across base, facilitated a pilot roundtable dialogue session, and formally recognized some of the Wing's exceptional performers.

Tech. Sgt. Tarra Sliwa, 151st Medical Group Aerospace Technician, who was selected to brief Welsh on the International Partnership Program, said the experience was nerve-wracking, but rewarding.

"I'm incredibly passionate about the humanitarian work the Utah Air National Guard performs," said Sliwa. "The opportunity to highlight the professionals I work with and the partnership we've forged with Morocco was an absolute privilege." 

Throughout the day, the Welshes visited Airmen of all ranks and specialties, as well as some of their spouses, to discuss the unique opportunities and challenges they face. For Mrs. Welsh, this included tea with key spouses, family support staff, and community organizations to talk about how the Guard takes care of families during deployments.

"Betty was gracious and engaging," said Elizabeth Craig, wife of Darwin Craig, 151st Air Refueling Wing commander. "It was an honor to meet them both; they are so genuine in their concern for our Airmen and their families."

Welsh said his greatest takeaway from the visit was the palpable sense of pride he experienced at every stop on base, and he acknowledged that citizen soldiers play a unique role in the total force in their efforts to balance military service with civilian jobs and family life.

"What you do is different, and the fact that you stand behind the minuteman symbol, probably our oldest symbol of national defense, is really cool," he said. "Remember always how critically important you are."