The Air Force’s top general and top enlisted airman visited the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico Nov. 17, and lauded Air National Guardsmen there for the role they play in the service’s mission.

The 156th, located at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, suffered a tragic loss in May when one of its WC-130H aircraft crashed immediately after takeoff in Georgia, killing all nine aboard. Accident investigators concluded the crash was caused by a faulty engine, maintenance lapses that failed to fix it, and a series of air crew mistakes before and during takeoff.

But the report also exposed troubling morale, manning and resource problems with the 156th, and said it was suffering from “a certain degree of apathy and low morale” that “stemmed from a lack of cohesive mission.”

The 156th flies non-combat coded aircraft, some of the oldest C-130s in the Air Force. The report said some airmen feel their wing “is an afterthought” to the service, and they don’t feel like they’re part of the total force.

During their visit to the 156th, Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright took questions from airmen and spoke to them about their role.

“Your generational heritage, your unique bilingual skills and your strategic location as the nexus between [U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command] make you an important asset within our total force,” Goldfein said, according to a release.

Goldfein, Wright and Chief Master Sergeant Manny Piñeiro, the Air Force’s first sergeant career field manager, who was born in Puerto Rico, toured Muñiz and ate lunch with airmen there. They also recognized some airmen there for their outstanding performance, and met with squadron commanders and chief master sergeants.

The 156th gave Goldfein and Wright an update on construction at the base, including repairs to some facilities that were damaged during Hurricane Maria.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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