ENID, Okla. — Enid Aviation Advisory Board met in a special session Monday and greeted new Enid Woodring Regional Airport Director Deirdre Gurry, who will assume the position Friday, when current director Dan Ohnesorge retires.

Looking back on his 11 years as director at Woodring, Ohnesorge said the job "has been a lot of fun."

Ohnesorge came to the job in 2008, after retiring from the Air Force as a colonel in 2003 and serving a stint as program manager for CSC Applied Technologies LLC, then the primary civilian contractor at Vance Air Force Base. His last post on active duty was as vice commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance.

The advisory board thanked Ohnesorge for his leadership over the last 11 years. He, in turn, said his success at the airport was due in part to the support of former Enid city manager Eric Benson, who hired him for the job.

"Eric Benson gave me free reign when I came out here, and I really appreciated that — him letting me come out here, see the issues and work the issues," Ohnesorge said.

As a former vice commander at Vance and then airport director, Ohnesorge said he always looked for ways for the two entities to work together in mutually beneficial ways.

"One thing I've always tried to do is, if there was something we could do that would benefit Vance, we knew it would benefit our guys here as well," he said.

That collaborative spirit figured into several large joint ventures over the last 11 years, including a more-than $10 million project to lengthen the airport's runway to 8,000 feet to accommodate T-1 and T-38 aircraft from Vance, completed in 2015; a joint-use parking ramp, undertaken in 2016; and the new $2.7 million terminal, with joint-use planning room, unveiled last month.

With the new airport terminal open and in use, Ohnesorge said he felt ready to hand off the job to Gurry.

"It was a lot of work," he said, "but in the end, you get to look back and you get a lot of satisfaction out of it."

Ohnesorge said he looks forward to retiring to his home in Tulsa and traveling with his family. A farewell reception at the terminal building is planned for 4-6 p.m. Friday.

As Ohnesorge plans for his retirement, Gurry, who recently retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, said she's looking forward to building on the collaborative working environment between Vance, Woodring and the Enid community.

"I just really love the way things run around here," Gurry said, "and I want to give back."

Formerly a T-6 Texan instructor pilot, Gurry commanded the 8th Flying Training Squadron until March, and retired from active duty on Aug. 1.

A native of Pennsylvania, Gurry was commissioned in 1999 through the Air Force ROTC program at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She completed undergraduate pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, and stayed on at Columbus as a T-37 first assignment instructor pilot.

Gurry did most of her operational flying in the C-17 Globemaster at McChord Air Force Base in Washington, and said when she came to Vance she assumed she'd move back there to retire.

"When I first moved here, I didn't plan on staying," she said. "But, Enid really grew on me. I love it here, and I really want to use this position to interact with the community."

Building on the existing relationship between the community and Vance, Gurry said she wants to involve the community more in the airport, and give them a sense of ownership of and pride in Woodring.

"We want to bring the community out here to see this is their airport," she said, "and just give people opportunities to be involved."

Gurry already has plans for a food truck festival at Woodring, and she'd also like to start an aviation job fair, to spread passion for aviation and connect students to opportunities in aviation-related industries.

"A lot of times people think aviation is just about pilots," Gurry said, "but there are so many other opportunities in aviation, and hopefully for some of the young people in Enid, we will be able to plant that seed that could lead to a career in aviation."

For more information on events at Enid Woodring Regional Airport, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/woodringairport.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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