October 4, 2009 (by Asif Shamim) - Gen. Craig McKinley, head of all the countries National Guard returned to his hometown of Jacksonville, to dedicate a new F-16 gate guardian to the 125th Fighter Wing at there headquarters at Jacksonville International Airport.
Airmen with the 125th FW mount an F-16 on a pedestal at the base on September 15th, 2009. [USAF photo by Lt. Col. Richard Bittner]
McKinley was born in Jacksonville and served for 15 years with the 125th Fighter Wing.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon was the heart of the 125th's operations for much of the time that McKinley was with the unit. But it was phased out in the mid '90s in favour of the F-15 Eagle. Now an example (believed to be #79-0296
) is back and perched on a pedestal of black granite.
Col. Robert Banyon, commander of the 125th, said the F-16 was the aircraft with a full bubble canopy.
"It doesn't even feel like you're in an aircraft," he said. "It's like you're strapped to a rocket."
In a speech before members and retired members of the 125th, McKinley, the first four-star general to lead the National Guard, spoke more about the men and women who flew, maintained and supported the aircraft than he did of the aircraft itself.