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  • Tribute to Kentucky Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini

    by Senator Mitch McConnell

    Posted on 2015-12-14

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    McCONNELL. Mr. President, I wish to pay tribute today to a distinguished airman and honored Kentuckian who has given over four decades of his life to military service. Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, for 8 years the adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, retired from service on December 8.

    General Tonini is a career Air National Guard officer and was appointed adjutant general by the former Governor in 2007. As adjutant general, he served as the commanding general of both the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard and as executive director of the Department of Military Affairs.

    In his 8 years of service in that role, he successfully led the National Guard and Kentucky through many difficult challenges with great skill and ability. He leaves Kentucky's National Guard stronger and more effective than when he found it.

    During his tenure, Kentucky's National Guard continued to deploy soldiers and airmen to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, South America, and even Antarctica. In fact, Kentucky National Guard soldiers and airmen were deployed in support of contingency operations every day of General Tonini's tenure, to the tune of over 16,000 servicemembers over the years.

    In January 2009, Kentucky experienced one of the worst natural disasters in the State's history when 10 inches of snow fell on top of 3 inches of ice throughout most of the State. More than 100 counties declared states of emergency while FEMA declared the whole State a disaster zone.

    In response to this crisis, General Tonini led the largest State- active-duty call up in Kentucky's history. More than 4,600 servicemembers assisted Kentuckians in need, as nearly 800,000 people were without power and heat. Surely many lives were saved thanks to his leadership during these efforts.

    General Tonini worked to establish Kentucky's new, state-of-the-art Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center, which serves as a vital command center and liaison to local governments in times of crisis. The new Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center [[Page S8630]] isn't the only new improvement under General Tonini's watch.

    During the last 8 years, the Kentucky National Guard has undertaken nearly $200 million in facility improvements, consisting of both new buildings and additions and alterations to existing buildings, to add about 650,000 square feet of facilities to the Guard's resources. These new facilities include the Paducah and Richmond Armed Forces Reserve Center, the Owensboro Readiness Center, and the Army Aviation Support Facility in Frankfort, among others. General Tonini was also a champion of the important work taking place at the Bluegrass Station industrial park in central Kentucky.

    General Tonini was a strong advocate of Kentucky's Agribusiness Development Teams, a program in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. These teams of Kentucky soldiers and airmen taught agricultural expertise to the people of Afghanistan, sharing their knowledge of irrigation techniques, food preservation, veterinary medicine, and more with hundreds of Afghans across the country.

    General Tonini also was a strong supporter of the Guard's state partnership program, where the Kentucky National Guard partners with a foreign nation to strengthen the operations of both partners. The Kentucky National Guard has partnered with Ecuador for 19 years. Under the general's leadership, Kentucky added a second partnership program with Djibouti, making my State the first to partner with an east African nation. Djibouti is a key strategic partner for us in humanitarian and counterterrorist operations.

    General Tonini's leadership has also been recognized outside the Commonwealth. In 2013, he was elected the president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States. During his tenure as president, America's National Guard boasted more than 450,000 personnel across the Nation.

    Under General Tonini, Kentucky hosted the two largest events in the Nation for survivor outreach to support the family members of fallen servicemembers, one in Louisville and the other in northern Kentucky. We were able to honor more than 850 survivors from multiple States.

    Finally, the Kentucky National Guard Memorial saw completion after 10 years thanks to General Tonini's persistence and his prodigious fundraising efforts. Located at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, the memorial honors 234 Kentucky guardsmen who have given their lives in the line of duty since 1912.

    General Tonini has all these accomplishments and many more to be proud of as he steps down from the adjutant general post he so ably filled for 8 years. He has truly earned a place not just in Kentucky history, but in Kentuckians' hearts for his honorable service.

    I would be remiss if I did not also laud the general's wife, Carol, who has been a consistent presence with him at the full range of National Guard events, both in Kentucky and throughout the country. She has been a tremendous asset to him thanks to her grace, her support for those in uniform and their families, and her rock-solid support for her husband.

    I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating General Edward W. Tonini upon his retirement and thanking him for his service--not just over the last 8 years, but over the last four decades. Kentucky is thankful for the many sacrifices he has made over the years to protect our communities and our Nation. I certainly want to wish General Tonini all the best in whatever awaits him in his next endeavors, and I am sure he will tackle all future challenges with the same vigor and fortitude he applied to his military service. Thank you, General Tonini, on behalf of a grateful Commonwealth.


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