'Gray Eagle' awards presented to longest-serving pilots
By Master Sgt. Scott Elliott, Air Force Print News
/ Published March 21, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Just minutes after airmen deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom began the highly anticipated "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad on March 21, Air Force leaders paused to pay tribute to two of the service's longest-serving pilots.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers and Maj. Gen. John J. Batbie, Jr., vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command, were presented trophies in recognition of their status as the pilots with the longest period of continuous aviation service. Myers' trophy recognizes active duty service, while Batbie's represents service in the air reserve components.
"On this solemn day, I can think of no one who carries the torch of aviation experience around with him better than Gen. Richard Myers," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper during the trophy presentation.
"I remember my first flight in the ROTC flight program," Myers said. "I remember the feeling I had the first time we broke ground. I looked down and said, 'I don't know if this has any military utility, but it sure is fun!'
"That fun and challenge kept going for a long time, but somewhere in our careers the flying part gives way to the real reasons we like the Air Force," he said. "The reason I'm still wearing this uniform, coming up on 38 years, is because I like hanging around people who wear this uniform and being associated with the world's greatest Air Force."
Myers has "owned" the Gray Eagle Award since 1999.
This is the first Gray Eagle Award for Batbie, whose aviation career began as an Army helicopter pilot in 1969. He became an Air Force Reserve pilot in 1972.
"This finishes a complete cycle for me," he said. "I remember when I was an armor officer in Korea, responsible for training. We'd get F-4 Phantoms to fly up and down the valley so our Army kids could track them. That's when I said I wanted to be an Air Force pilot.
"It kind of never really felt like I'd made the complete transition until now," he said. "Now, after 30-plus years, I think I'm there."