A retired Niagara Falls police officer with a long history of military service has been selected as the top enlisted leader of the New York Air National Guard.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard D. King, a member of the 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and a Wheatfield resident, will start his new job in February, serving as the top advocate for the Guard's 5,500 enlisted personnel.
The promotion gives the Buffalo Niagara region the distinction of being home to not only the top enlisted member of the state's Air National Guard, but its commanding officer as well, Maj. Gen. James W. Kwiatkowski, a Clarence Center resident.
With a total of 6,000 members, New York State has the biggest Air National Guard contingent in the country. King will serve as Kwiatkowski's adviser in matters pertaining to the welfare of enlisted members.
"As soon as I can, my goal is to get out to the units and visit with as many of our New York airmen as I can," King said Tuesday. "I have always been the type of leader that needs to be out in the field as much as possible, being visible and ensuring our airmen know that whatever their duty or mission is, and whether they think it is relevant or not, that leadership recognizes their part."
The state's Air National Guard consists of five air wings from Long Island to Niagara Falls. Guard members also staff the Eastern Air Defense Sector, a unit responsible for monitoring American air space east of the Mississippi.
In addition to transporting cargo and personnel to hot spots throughout the world, the state's airmen also fly missions to the South Pole, operate remotely controlled drone aircraft flying over Afghanistan, and conduct rescue missions in the Atlantic Ocean.
King, 50, was born and raised in Niagara Falls. He has served in a number of deployments, including assignments to Iraq in 2008 and providing security support for anti-terrorism operations in Kyrgyzstan in 2002-03 and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in 2005.
He enlisted in the Air Force in 1978, and was assigned to its security police and security forces. In 1982, he transferred to the Air National Guard and served in a number of leadership positions with the 107th Security Forces Squadron in Niagara Falls.
His honors include the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. In addition, he has been awarded the Air Force Expeditionary Service Medal, the New York State Medal for Valor and the New York Defense of Liberty Ribbon.
King retired as a Niagara Falls police officer in October 2009, after 21 years of service, and is currently employed as a police officer with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police Department in Buffalo.
Kwiatkowski was promoted in August to commander of the state's Air Guard.