NEVADA AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE --
Capt. Tennyson William Hunter, “Wizard,” the Nevada Air National Guard’s first-ever Pilot for a Day in 2019, died Monday, Feb. 22, after a lifetime battle with Kabuki Syndrome. He was 15.
Hunter, or as Nevada Air Guardsmen called him Wizard — a call sign he acquired in his whirlwind one day of service and retirement — touched the hearts of every single High Roller on the base as Pilot for a Day, an Air Force-wide program that provides chronically-ill children a chance to enter Air Force life. With his jovial spirit and can-do attitude, he made quite the impact at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno, Dec. 16, 2019.
Wizard had Kabuki Syndrome, a congenital disorder triggered by a genetic mutation that affects multiple organ systems and causes developmental delays. He had over a dozen surgeries throughout his life. He succumbed to complications of his cancer treatment on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in the arms of his parents.
Whirlwind military service
“This is a tremendous opportunity to have him out at the base because it showed all of our members the resiliency someone can have,” said Tech. Sgt. Sean Bird, in 2019, a life support specialist with the 152nd Airlift Wing. “It definitely put things in perspective.”
Bird had outfitted Hunter with his own flight suit with nameplate and patches that were provided by members of the base at no cost to the government.
Renown Children’s Hospital nominated him to be a Nevada Air National Guard Pilot for a Day.
The day started with Hunter swearing in for a one-day oath of commission. Pilots briefed him on his “classified” mission before he received a tour of the 152nd Airlift Wing’s C-130 aircraft. He visited the base firehouse, security forces and the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control tower before the day concluded with his retirement ceremony in the Wing headquarters’ auditorium.
“Special things like this transcend many of our day-to-day tasks,” said Maj. Joseph Jaquish, who, in 2019, briefed Hunter’s mission and organized his call-sign ceremony. “The Air Force focuses a lot on metrics, data and other numbers, but some projects go beyond numbers. You can’t quantify this. It was much bigger than that. It felt so nice to be part of something special.”
Jaquish added: “What made the day so enjoyable was that Capt. Hunter was such a wonderful kid. I don’t want people to lose sight of that. Renown did a good job nominating him for this event.”
Getting his call sign
Every pilot gets a call sign, but they don’t get to pick.
At his ceremony in 2019, within hours of his commission, Capt. Tennyson William Hunter, received four finalists for his call sign: Kittens Mittens, Chef, Lotto and Wizard. First, for his love of cats. Second, because he enjoys baking. Third, given the 152nd Airlift Wing “hit the jackpot” recruiting him into the ranks and fourth because Hunter is a fan of the J.K. Rowling book and movie series “Harry Potter.”
It was a tough choice, but in the end, “Wizard” took flight.
The naming of Hunter’s call sign — announced during a ceremony in front of more than 150 Nevada Air Guardsmen in the Wing’s auditorium — was one of several events Hunter experienced during the 152nd Airlift Wing’s inaugural Pilot for a Day program held that day.
Reason to serve
Someone as special as Tenny is exactly why the Wing participated in the program of “Pilot for a Day” – to give back to the community and enable someone like him to have a day like no other.
This brought the base together and added perspective to each and every High Roller’s life. It gave us a chance during the holiday season to provide a deserving child with some fun and enjoyment, if only for a day, as a member of the 152nd Airlift Wing High Rollers. it was shocking and humbling that so many put such much care and energy into making this an unforgettable event for an unforgettable human being.
The 152nd Airlift Wing plans to organize another Pilot for a Day event this coming December. For nominations, call the Public Affairs Office at (775) 788-4515.