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Family, friends celebrate career of Col. Joseph Sweeney

6)	Col. Joseph Sweeney watches on as two honor guardsmen fold the flag during his retirement ceremony on Otis Air National Guard Base May 5, 2012 Col. Sweeney is retiring from a military career which began as a Marine, before he transitioned to the Air National Guard in 1992. He commanded both at the squadron and group levels during his career which spanned more than 30 years. Hundreds of Sweeney’s relatives, friends and fellow Airmen were in attendance to celebrate Sweeney’s career coming to a close. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Patrick McKenna/Released)

Col. Joseph Sweeney watches on as two honor guardsmen fold the flag during his retirement ceremony on Otis Air National Guard Base May 5, 2012 Col. Sweeney is retiring from a military career which began as a Marine, before he transitioned to the Air National Guard in 1992. He commanded both at the squadron and group levels during his career which spanned more than 30 years. Hundreds of Sweeney’s relatives, friends and fellow Airmen were in attendance to celebrate Sweeney’s career coming to a close. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Patrick McKenna/Released)

Rene Rancourt, Boston Bruins national anthem singer for more than 30 years, closed the ceremony with the singing of both the Marine Corps hymn and Air Force song. Col. Sweeney is retiring from a military career which began as a Marine, before he transitioned to the Air National Guard in 1992. He commanded both at the squadron and group levels during his career which spanned more than 30 years. Hundreds of Sweeney’s relatives, friends and fellow Airmen were in attendance to celebrate Sweeney’s career coming to a close. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick McKenna)

Rene Rancourt, Boston Bruins national anthem singer for more than 30 years, closed the ceremony with the singing of both the Marine Corps hymn and Air Force song. Col. Sweeney is retiring from a military career which began as a Marine, before he transitioned to the Air National Guard in 1992. He commanded both at the squadron and group levels during his career which spanned more than 30 years. Hundreds of Sweeney’s relatives, friends and fellow Airmen were in attendance to celebrate Sweeney’s career coming to a close. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick McKenna)

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --
Colonel Joseph Sweeney, formerly the 102nd Air Intelligence Squadron commander, concluded his Air Force career in front of his family, close friends and fellow Airmen during a retirement ceremony here May 5, 2012.

Several Airmen whom Col. Sweeney served with during his more than 31 years of military service took the opportunity to highlight their experiences with him. There were plenty of stories and laughs celebrating Sweeney's accomplishments as a husband, father and Airman.

To say that Col. Sweeney comes from a family with deep military ties would be an understatement. In August 1945, his father, Maj. Gen. (retired) Charles W. Sweeney, flew the historic missions which dropped atomic bombs on Japan and brought World War II to a close. Upon leaving active duty, Sweeney's father commanded the 102nd Air Defense Wing here in Massachusetts; the same wing his son is retiring from more than 50 years later.

Sweeney's military career began as a Marine Corps recruit at Parris Island 31 years ago. After three years, Sweeney received his commission to become a Marine Corps officer and went on to command Marines throughout the next several years. Sweeney transitioned to the Air National Guard in 1992, serving as both a squadron and group commander over the past two decades.

In 2008, more than 15 years after joining the ANG here at Otis Air National Guard Base, Sweeney volunteered to command the 102nd Air Operations Group's new Air Intelligence Squadron. Knowing he'd have to leave his family in Massachusetts for eight months while he attended Intelligence Officer school in Texas, Sweeney was determined to provide the brand new squadron with experienced leadership as it grew and developed. Under Sweeney's leadership, a 1980's flying operations structure was transformed into a world class accredited intelligence collection facility.

Throughout the ceremony, some common themes the speakers used had to do with Col. Sweeney's large presence, but his even larger personality. They all described him as someone who made taking care of his Airmen his top priority.

"He inspires people to a greater human potential," said Col. Virginia Doonan, 102nd Intelligence Group commander. "He makes people dig down deep. His leadership style, whether it was being a big teddy bear or giving stern looks, made people move to greater heights."

When it was Sweeney's turn to address those in attendance, he thanked his family, friends and fellow servicemembers for their support during his military career which began on Parris Island as a Marine and ended 31 years later on Cape Cod as an Airman.

The ceremony concluded with Rene Rancourt, who's been singing the national anthem at Boston Bruins home games for more than 30 years, singing both the Marine Corps hymn and Air Force song as Sweeney and his guests departed the room.