NORTH KINGSTON, R.I. – Members of the Rhode Island National Guard gathered Dec. 1 at Quonset Air National Guard Base to witness the retirement of Col. Richard Hart after 29 years of service.
Attending from Col. Hart's family were his sister, retired colonel and fellow pilot Kathleen Sullivan, and father, retired Brig. Gen. Richard Hart.
Brig. Gen. Arthur J. Floru, director-Joint Staff, Rhode Island National Guard, was the presiding officer for the ceremony and provided opening remarks.
"I wanted to start this off with our new mantra, 'We Are RHODY.' I hope that our new members embrace this mantra because everything that we have today was built upon the shoulders of those who came before us." The Hart family especially has distinguished themselves from other military families due to their legacy and aviation experience. "There isn't another family on this base like them with such high levels of membership. For the first time in almost 50 years there will be no Hart within the RIANG. It's sad but great because this family will be leaving such a strong legacy behind," Floru said.
Col. Hart is a native to New England, born in Massachusetts. When the 143d moved from T.F. Green Airport to Quonset Point, his father moved the family and he became a true Rhode Islander. He received his commission through the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science, Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1990. Upon completion of undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base (AFB), he was assigned to fly C-130's at Quonset Point as a member of the RIANG. Over the past 29 years, he has served as a C-130J aircraft commander, instructor pilot, evaluator pilot, chief of tactics, chief of flying training, director of operations, airlift squadron commander, and finally, vice wing commander. He is a graduate of the Advanced Airlift Tactics training school as well as the night vision goggle instructor course.
As the 143d Airlift Wing International Training Director, he successfully managed several Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs-sponsored C130J international training programs for Iraq, India, Denmark, United Kingdom and Israel. He flew as a crewmember in support of United Nations-sponsored humanitarian relief missions such as Operation Provide Comfort in northeastern Iraq and Turkey and Operation Provide Promise in the former Yugoslavia. Col Hart is a veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has deployed countless times since Sept. 11, 2001, in support of the Global War on Terror.
During his most recent deployment, he served as the director of operations, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Afghanistan, where he orchestrated a complex C-130J tactical airlift operation with a 98 percent positive launch success rate at a forward deployed location.
Col. Hart has compiled over 5,800 flying hours in a C-130J aircraft and as of today, is still current and qualified as a C-130J instructor pilot. He has also been a commercial airline pilot since 1996 and is employed by American Airlines. For the most part of his career, Col. Hart has served the ANG as a drill status, traditional guard member. However, in the past, he has also served in a full time capacity as both a technician and an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) member.
During this historic occasion, Col. Hart also received additional citations and certificates in honor of his retirement and years of service from Jack Reed, Rhode Island U.S. senator, Nick Mattiello, speaker of the House, and state Gov. Gina Raimondo. He also received an award for outstanding achievement for his 28 years of dedication and exceptional service. During his final speech, Hart said, "I am so thankful for the support of my family. I really do believe that families serve this country just as much as any service member does."
He also thanked the people who he served with and highlighted the many families that serve or have served in the RIANG together. "
My whole family has been in the Guard and there are so many other tremendous legacies on this base. It's so important for us to recognize and embrace the history of the people that made us what we are today." At the end of his speech, Hart brought the attention back to the current members of the 143d. "I work with these people at a tactical level every day and I have to say, this is the best wing in the entire world."
After the ceremony, Hart's father, retired Brig. Gen. Richard Hart, commented on how proud he is of both his children following in his footsteps. "As a pilot, you want your children to follow your lead and become what you have become. It seems unrealistic but both of my children did just that and became pilots. I couldn't be more proud of their accomplishments."