May 5, 2010 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. –Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command commander, flew the last military flight of his career at the controls of a 302nd Airlift Wing C-130 here May 5.
The flight heralds the end of a journey encompassing 39 years, 22 assignments and 60 combat missions.
After taxiing under plumes of water fired from a pair of Peterson fire trucks and then doused with fire extinguishers and bottles of champagne by his fellow officers as he left the aircraft for the final time, Renuart said his last flight was bittersweet.
“It was great,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for more in my career than a chance to fly with these guys and see some of Colorado. Good mission, great crew, the squadron has just been great to fly with. For me, it’s a high point, and it’s good to have the chance to fly my last mission in a tactical aircraft.”
The final or “fini” flight is a long-standing Air Force tradition that traces its roots back to the Vietnam War where pilots would commemorate their final combat mission.
Although a fighter pilot by trade, Renuart has flown with members of the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB since taking command of NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM in 2007 and chose to fly his last mission in one of their C-130s.
“Initially, we were a little on edge, not knowing what to expect,” said Lt. Col. David Condit, 302nd Airlift Wing MAFFS manager and the navigator for Renuart’s final flight. “But he came right in, was one of the guys. He’s a great pilot. It’s been fantastic flying with him.”
NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM may be losing a commander, but the 302nd was also losing a great pilot, Condit said.
“He has full tactical qualifications in this aircraft,” Condit said. “He’s got air-land, airdrop and night vision goggles qualifications. He is the most highly qualified flying general in the Air Force right now with four stars.”
Condit said the wing was honored to have Renuart fly with them.
“It’s tough for us,” Condit said. “We all developed a friendship with him over the years, and it’s hard to see him go, but he’s going on to better things. It has been great to be able to interact with him. Some of the informal mentoring we have had with him these years, what we’ve learned from him and what he’s passed onto us, has been invaluable, and we really appreciate that.”
Renuart plans to retire July 1.