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139th honors members, community leaders

Senior Master Sgt. Morcie Whitley, 139th Airlift Wing, salutes Col. Michael Pankau, 139th AW commander, during an awards ceremony at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base Dec. 4, 2011. Whitley and other Airmen were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding service. (Missouri Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crane)

Senior Master Sgt. Morcie Whitley, 139th Airlift Wing, salutes Col. Michael Pankau, 139th AW commander, during an awards ceremony at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base Dec. 4, 2011. Whitley and other Airmen were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding service. (Missouri Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crane)

2nd Lt. Jeremy Funk, 139th Operations Group, salutes Col. Michael Pankau, 139th Airlift Wing commander, during an awards ceremony at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base Dec. 4, 2011. Funk and other Airmen were awarded the Air Force Achievement medal for outstanding service. (Missouri Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crane)

2nd Lt. Jeremy Funk, 139th Operations Group, salutes Col. Michael Pankau, 139th Airlift Wing commander, during an awards ceremony at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base Dec. 4, 2011. Funk and other Airmen were awarded the Air Force Achievement medal for outstanding service. (Missouri Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Crane)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The 139th Airlift Wing honored leaders and volunteers from nearby communities for their efforts to support the base during this summer's flood fight during a ceremony here Dec. 4.

The recognition of community leaders was part of a larger ceremony honoring numerous 139th members for awards covering a number of deployments the unit participated in during 2011.

"We have a tremendous support structure in our community," Col. Mike Pankau, 139th AW commander, said to the crowd of approximately 500. "I hope this small gesture of recognition lets them know that (their) great support ... is certainly appreciated."

Leaders and volunteers on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas state line were lauded for their efforts to combat severe Missouri River flooding. The river divides the states and - though protected by levees -- surrounds the base on three sides.

The wing also recognized some members who had retired but did not receive certain medals they were entitled to, particularly the Missouri Vietnam Campaign Ribbon.

"Over the last year this wing has deployed and returned nearly 300 of our own for the most demanding mission this organization has ever been tasked to do," Pankau said.

"Today there are 34 139th Airmen currently deployed around the world supporting the (Global War on Terror) effort."

Included in the 139th's mission during the past year was another rotation to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and a Security Forces deployment to Southwest Asia which is winding down this month.

The commander also thanked the families of deployed members.

"I want to make sure you know that you and family's well-being is this leadership team's foremost concern," he said. "We were here when you left; we are committed to taking care of your family while you are gone; and we will do whatever we can to return you to your family and employer in the same condition we found you when you were asked to serve."

Additional photos from the ceremony can be found at the following link:
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