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New leader will pilot state's Air National Guard.

Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - As Maj. Gen. Michael D. Akey handed over the guidon, the unit flag for the Massachusetts Air National Guard, his friend and fellow guardsman, Brig. Gen. L. Scott Rice, waited solemnly behind him ready to assume the role of commander.

The two men, both 52, share several things in life. Born weeks apart, the two are also guardsmen who, in their civilian lives, also fly for United Airlines.

Now both will have served as commander of the Massachusetts National Guard.

Maj. Gen. Akey, who is retiring by the end of the year, handed over his duties to Brig. Gen. Rice yesterday in a change of command ceremony inside Wheaton Hall at the National Guard Museum on Salisbury Street.

With area politicians on hand, including Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, U.S. Sen. Scott P. Brown and state Sen. Michael O. Moore, more than 300 guardsmen stood at attention during the ceremony.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick arrived at the event and gave his wishes to the two men honored at the ceremony, but did not attend the event because he was committed to another one.

Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter addressed the crowd, stating both men are living examples of the excellence in the Air National Guard. He detailed both men's long history of service and the missions flown by air guardsmen.

Maj. Gen Akey, in his speech, noted the missions carried out by the guardsmen and said when he first took over as commander he was told his life would be busy and his wife wouldn't see him as much.

He apologized to his family for missed dinners and games, but thanked them for understanding his work and mission.

As Brig. Gen. Rice, a Southampton resident, took the podium as the new commander, he had the troops stand at ease. During his career he served as the commander of the Air Force Forces for the United States Central Command in the Middle East Area of operations. He commanded F-16 units deployed to Kuwait in 2004.



CUTLINE: Brig. Gen. L. Scott Rice shakes hands with Jacob Akey, the 6-year-old grandson of retiring the Massachusetts Air National Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Akey, yesterday.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 13, 2010
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