COL Russell Johnson (1926-2014), affectionately referred to as “Mr. Army National Guard Aviation”, took his first flight with his dad in 1929 and earned his private pilot license in 1943. He would eventually become one of the most experienced aviators in Rhode Island Army Aviation history. He was both a fixed and rotary wing instructor pilot with more than 9,000 military flight hours and 12,000 total hours flight time. He saw combat during WWII as a 19-year-old infantryman, and earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the Battle of Leyte. His Rhode Island Army Aviation career spanned three decades, starting in 1954 as an Aviation Officer with the 43rd Division Artillery at Hillsgrove and concluding in 1977 as the State Aviation Officer at Quonset Point. Russell was Flight Activity Commander at Hillsgrove from 1956 until 1974, and then became the first Rhode Island State Aviation Officer and Army Aviation Support Facility Commander. Though he retired federally at the rank of colonel he was promoted to brigadier general in the Rhode Island Army National Guard shortly before his retirement in 1977. Then-Governor J. Joseph Garrahy declared January 7, 1978 as Russell J. Johnson Day in Rhode Island.