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Retiring McKinley finishes term as Guard chief

Sep. 7, 2012 - 03:18PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 7, 2012 - 03:18PM  |  
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley and Army Gen. Frank Grass stand during the National Anthem at the National Guard Bureau Change of Responsibility Ceremony on Sept. 7 at the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley and Army Gen. Frank Grass stand during the National Anthem at the National Guard Bureau Change of Responsibility Ceremony on Sept. 7 at the Pentagon. (Chad J. McNeeley / Navy)
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After four years as head of the National Guard Bureau, Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley handed the reins to his successor Friday at a ceremony in the Pentagon.

Army Gen. Frank Grass received his fourth star when he formally succeeded McKinley, who is retiring Nov 1.

McKinley was the first four-star general to run the National Guard Bureau and the first chief of the Guard to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley called McKinley "the perfect person" to serve in the groundbreaking job.

"In that role, he has been a tireless champion for our Guardsmen and for all of our nation's military men and women," Donley said in a statement. "His wise counsel — informed by more than 35 years of distinguished military service — has been indispensable to our defense leadership team as we work to maintain a supremely capable force ready for the future."

McKinley's career is "one all airmen can be proud of," said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III.

"From flying alert in the f-106 to being the chief of the National Guard Bureau, he has lived a life of service and sacrifice for the nation and has been one of my role models for years," Welsh said in a statement. "He taught me how to be a general officer in our air force and we will miss him and his leadership."

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