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Adjutant general takes final F-16 flight

BUCKLEY AIR FOPRCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney, the outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, is greeted by his wife Miriam after his final flight in an F-16 March 8. General Whitney retires March 24 after seven years of service as Colorado's highest-ranking military commander. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Darin Overstreet)

BUCKLEY AIR FOPRCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney, the outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, is greeted by his wife Miriam after his final flight in an F-16 March 8. General Whitney retires March 24 after seven years of service as Colorado's highest-ranking military commander. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Darin Overstreet)

BUCKLEY AIR FOPRCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney, the outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, poses in front of an F-16 March 8 after his final flight in an F-16. General Whitney retires March 24 after seven years of service as Colorado's highest-ranking military commander. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Darin Overstreet)

BUCKLEY AIR FOPRCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney, the outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, poses in front of an F-16 March 8 after his final flight in an F-16. General Whitney retires March 24 after seven years of service as Colorado's highest-ranking military commander. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Darin Overstreet)

BUCKLEY AIR FOPRCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney (left), the outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, waves just before taking off on his final flight in an F-16 March 8. General Whitney retires March 24 after seven years of service as Colorado's highest-ranking military commander. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer)

BUCKLEY AIR FOPRCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney (left), the outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, waves just before taking off on his final flight in an F-16 March 8. General Whitney retires March 24 after seven years of service as Colorado's highest-ranking military commander. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Gen. Mason C. Whitney, outgoing Colorado National Guard adjutant general, took off from here in an F-16 Fighting Falcon the morning of March 8 for his final flight before retiring.

It had been nine years since he last flew, he said, but it all came back to him as soon as he got warmed up.

Whitney embarked on his "fini" flight with three other F-16s from Buckley for a one-and-a-half hour long flight.

After landing, he was greeted with a kiss from his wife, a bottle of champagne, and applause from a large crowd. Once everyone had congratulated General Whitney on his successful career and final flight a celebratory barbecue ensued.

"It's wonderful the wing gave me this opportunity," General Whitney said with a smile. "But it's kind of bittersweet because it's the very last time I will get to fly a military plane."
General Whitney will continue to fly civilian planes, but said the real flying is done in Air Force Jets.

Ever since he was a kid he aspired to fly in the military for as long as he could. And he said he has lived that dream.

Now that the goal has been achieved, General Whitney said he has a memorable last flight to look back on.

"The flight was great," he said. "This is a wonderful way to end my career. And I really appreciate everyone being here for this."

Whitney's wife, Miriam, also expressed mixed feelings over her husband's last flight.

"It's like seeing our lives flash in front of us," she said. "It's very emotional. I still get the chill bumps when I see him take off, just like when he was 27 and going on missions."

She explained that there were a lot of mixed feelings this time.

"This flight is symbolic of our lives together," Ms. Whitney said. "It represents our lives and our youths and our different passages. It's really, really special."

Mrs. Whitney said she was happy and excited for her husband at this turning point in his life. 

"He's a pilot from the heart," she said. "It represents who he is."

General Whitney has been in the Air Force for 39 years. He served as The Adjutant General for the last seven. His final farewell will be at the Colorado Military Ball at the Double Tree Hotel on March 24.