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Hobbins honored by Latvia
By: TRISTAN HINDERLITER Special to the Review, Staff Writer
A former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe was presented the highest honor given by the country of Latvia in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this spring.
Retired Gen. William Tom Hobbins, an Air Force commander from 2005 to 2008, was awarded the Order of Viesturs, First Grade, by Latvian president Valdis Zatlers in recognition of the general’s personal investment in helping to ensure the success of the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia in Nov. 2006.
"It was a great honor to receive this award," said Gen. Hobbins. "I simply represent the people who are truly deserving of this award, the men and women of USAFE who served with me."
Gen. Hobbins led the international effort as the combined forces air component commander during Operation Peaceful Summit, the military effort to enhance Baltic Air Policing activities with additional aircraft, communications and maintenance support to ensure safe skies as 26 heads of state met at the summit.
The gathering had particular significance because it was the first NATO summit held on territory of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It marked the first time such a high-level event was held in the region and was perceived to have increased the visibility of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as NATO members.
"What we did was provide military aircraft and infrastructure to assist not only with the President of the United States’ visits to Tallinn and Riga, but to the overall NATO summit," he said.
Up to 25 fighter aircraft patrolled the skies at any given time, and Gen. Hobbins and his staff at the Combined Joint Air Operations Center closely monitored all aircraft in the area of operations.
"It was especially noteworthy, given the Commonwealth of Independent States was conducting their summit just 120 kilometers to the east in Minsk, Belarus, with their Combat Air Patrols," Gen. Hobbins said. "Whether it was a military or civilian aircraft, we had each one of them in our system and we knew exactly what their flight plans were. We had a complete view of the airspace and ensured no one flew in the restricted area. It was a very successful effort by the men and women of USAFE and the Latvian forces, and I’m proud to have been a part of it."
The Order of Viesturs was formally established in 1938, dates in origin back to the 12th century, and is awarded for outstanding military achievements. More HOBBINS, page A16