Louisiana Guard aviation units welcome new commanders

By Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office

NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana National Guard’s State Aviation Command and 204th Theater Airfield Operations Group welcomed new commanders during two official change of command ceremonies at Army Aviation Facility #1 in Hammond, July 9.

Col. John Plunkett took command of the SAC and Lt. Col. John Bonnette took command of the 204th. Both organizations were previously headed by Brig. Gen. Patrick Bossetta, who was pinned with the one-star rank upon relinquishing both commands.

Plunkett, a New Orleans native, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1983 where he served as a helicopter repairer. He joined the LANG in 1987 and commissioned as a warrant officer in 1989. In 1998, he commissioned as an aviation officer in the Medical Service Corps.

“I’d like to thank General Curtis for giving me the opportunity to command such a great organization,” said Plunkett. “We’ll continue to be vital to our nation’s overall welfare and security.”

Plunkett has deployed with the LANG twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and once in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He has also supported several state emergency responses, most notably Hurricanes Katrina, Andrew and Isaac, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the major floods in 2015 and 2016. To date, Plunkett has logged over 2,900 flight hours and over 500 combat flight hours.

He has a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy from Louisiana State University. He also holds two master’s degrees from the University of New Orleans and the U.S. Army War College in education and strategic studies.

Plunkett’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal (2), the Meritorious Service Medal (2), the Air Medal (2), the Army Commendation Medal (3), the Army Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (7), the National Defense Service Medal (2), the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal with one campaign star, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon (3), the Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device (4), the Combat Action Badge and the Master Aviator Badge.

Bonnette began the Reserve Officers Training Corps while attending the University of Mississippi. He commissioned in 1995 as an active duty Corps of Engineers branch officer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in business administration from Clemson University.

“There is no greater privilege in an officer’s career than that of command,” said Bonnette. “To the Soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers of the 204th Theater Airfield Operations Group and all the units within this command, I know firsthand that there is no better organization that I could be part of.”

Bonnette joined the LANG in 2004 and has been a part of several state emergency responses, most notably Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustave and Ike, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the major floods in 2015 and 2016. He has also deployed twice with the LANG in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom. To date, Bonnette has logged over 2500 flight hours and more than 350 combat flight hours.

Bonnette’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (3), the Army Commendation Medal (8), the Army Achievement Medal (3), the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal (2nd Award with M Device), the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Senior Army Aviator Badge, the Army Parachutist Badge and the Army Air Assault Badge.

The 204th is one of only two units of its kind in the entire U.S. Army. Their federal mission is to provide command and control, staff planning, supervision and standardization of all Army airfields and air traffic services in theater with them.

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