After more than 34 years of military service, a former 162nd Wing commander returned to celebrate his retirement during an informal ceremony at Morris Air National Guard Base, Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 3, 2022.
Maj. Gen. Howard P. Purcell, Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Air Component Commander of the Arizona Air National Guard and Air National Guard Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, spent his final day of service sharing gratitude with the members of the Arizona National Guard, where he has served the last nine years.
“Thank you for all the hard work, thank you for your service, and thank you for the pride that I feel for having been part of this wing,” said Purcell.
Purcell’s career began in the active-duty Air Force, but he served as the commander of the 162nd Wing from 2013 to 2016 before taking on additional roles at the Joint Force Headquarters for the Arizona National Guard.
During his final day with the men and women of the wing, he took one last flight in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. He said he didn’t realize how much he missed flying with his wingmen until he had the final opportunity to practice alongside fellow fighter pilots.
The wingmen he was referring to are the 162nd Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Jeffery L. Butler, Vice Wing Commander Col. Brant Putnam, Operations Group Commander Col. Thomas Obrochta, and Instructor Pilot Lt. Col Robert Hadley.
Together, these pilots have a combined 20,000 flight hours in the fighter jet, each with multiple thousands of hours of flight time — an achievement only a handful of pilots can say they’ve achieved during their careers.
While the flight was a highlight of his final day at Morris ANGB, throughout his career he found there was nothing better than his final assignment with the Arizona National Guard.
“I have had a pretty good career over 34 years, and I have done a lot, but to be honest with you this is hands down the best job I have ever had,” said Purcell. “It is not because of flying, the good parking spot, or corner office. It is not for any of that, but it is because this is the best group of people I’ve ever worked with. Thank you for the memories and friendships that will last forever.”