MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. --
Hundreds of people, including the National Guard's senior leadership, past and present, gathered here July 27 to dedicate a lasting tribute to retired Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the 26th Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
National Guard Airmen, Soldiers, contractors and community leaders dedicated the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center's 46,871-square-foot facility in McKinley's honor with speeches, music, tours, an unveiling, a ribbon cutting and a fly-over by the 134th Air Refueling Wing.
The dedication included remarks from McKinley; from Col. Kerry Lovely, commander of the TEC; from Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard and from Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the current Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
"Quite frankly, we stand on the shoulders of the great men and women who have gone before," McKinley said. "That's the only reason we exist, and the reason you keep giving back is that you can never repay the debt, and I am so honored and privileged to have this opportunity to be here today."
McKinley is the National Guard's first four-star general and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He spoke to similar honors for leaders who led the National Guard into the 21st Century.
"I hope everybody understands that this is about you, not me…it's about us," McKinley added. "It's about our service; it's about our nation…It's all about that."
The modern facility's three connected buildings were constructed from August 2014 to January 2017 and are situated central to the campus’s earlier brick buildings built between 1988 and 1992. The classroom building offers free Wi-Fi, state-of-the-art projection, sound systems, and plans for fiber optic conference connectivity. The two dormitory buildings also add 97 single-occupancy rooms.
While the ceremony formally honors the facility as Craig R. McKinley Hall, the building has already been in use for professional continuing education and workshops since its construction was complete.
"As I talk to you today, there are 30,000 men and women in the National Guard deployed on every continent, in every combatant command," said Lengyel. "…and they have never been better trained, they have never been better equipped, they have never been better respected, and they have never been more ready than they are today, and I attribute that to many of the leaders who are sitting in this audience."
Gen. Rice, the Air National Guard director, said that the leaders in attendance also held a debt of gratitude to McKinley and his wife. "You all brought us to a place to where we are proud of our heritage; we are proud of our history…of where we've been, where we are, and where we are looking forward to where we are going."
"We are very proud, with great admiration, to put your name on the side of this building and represent the best in all of us," Rice said.
McKinley is currently the national chair for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for the Secretary of Defense. He served as chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2008 to 2012 and obtained the rank of general during that time. Before that, McKinley served as the director of the Air National Guard from 2006 to 2008.
Memorialization officials pointed out McKinley's time as ANG director and his support in enhancing enlisted professional military education at the TEC through the relocation of the Academy of Military Science officer commissioning program to the Air Force's program at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The integration allowed for a shared learning experience as well as allowed TEC to enhance its education efforts. Since 1968, TEC courses have graduated about 40,000 NCO Academy students, as well as 20,000 Airman Leadership School students.
McKinley earned his commission in 1974 as a distinguished ROTC graduate at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Among his other service accomplishments are assignments with the Florida Air National Guard, to include command of the 125th Fighter Wing and the Southeast Air Defense Sector. He commanded 1st Air Force from 2002-2004. A command pilot, McKinley flew more than 4,000 flight hours with the T-38, F-106, F-16, F-15, C-130 and C-131.