"Achieving success through integration"
By Col. Robert Leeker, 131st Bomb Wing Commander
/ Published August 04, 2009
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
When the Base Realignment and Closure commission decided to move the Missouri Air National Guard's F-15s from St. Louis to other units, the 131st Fighter Wing was dismayed.
Over the course of several months following the final decision, discussions about integrating Active Duty and MOANG Airmen into associate missions were realized when DoD decision makers announced that the 131st Fighter Wing would become the 131st Bomb Wing, a classic associate of the 509th Bomb Wing.
Although more than half of the 131st Fighter Wing was facing the decision to retire, relocate or retrain and others had been left to wonder how a split operation affects their careers, this was good news. It spared jobs for our Airmen and preserved invaluable experience and manpower for Mo. and our nation.
We began planning for this immediately. The planning process was a long road, and executing that plan has been an enduring challenge. Today, Mo.Citizen-Airmen are working on and flying one of the most magnificent platforms in the world - the B-2. Our success has not been an individual or even an ANG effort, but instead, it is the result of a true Total Force feat. During the past three years, one "lesson learned" has stood out and remained consistent. The Active Duty Air Force and MOANG's shared values of Service and Excellence help overcome challenges. We've faced many already, and I know that, as a team, we will continue to make short work of the obstacles we encounter.
We're not without our differences, but it's easy to see that those differences will strengthen this associate relationship. The culture of the MOANG is based on a Citizen-Airman concept. Most Guardsmen will remain in a single unit and usually in a similar career field for their entire career. This keeps maintainers, pilots and support personnel in the field longer and allows them to become experts in their mission areas. This enhances combat capability. Our people are our biggest asset and the B-2 mission will become inherently stronger as a result of the continuity, experience and pride we offer to Team Whiteman.
With fewer leadership and personnel changes, the structure of the MOANG workforce remains fairly consistent. With fewer changes to deal with, unit camaraderie becomes a mainstay and hometown pride becomes deeply rooted. Strong pride for the unit, aircraft, mission, and community translate into a unified front and confident resolve in the face of challenge and change. The 131st Bomb Wing's extensive history of success in the face of transition is evidence of the ANG competence and that confident resolve.
When we began the transition, I promised my Airmen that I would help them transition with honor. We did just that and it was the hard work and personal investments of our Airmen that allowed us to realign the F-15s and establish operations here, safely, successfully and effectively. Ending operations at Lambert meant the end of an era, but we are beginning a new one at Whiteman AFB.
I made another promise to Whiteman leadership. I've promised three different 509th Bomb Wing commanders and other key leaders here the same thing. The MOANG will integrate into Team Whiteman and our "skilled and proud Airmen" will contribute in every way we can to the Whiteman mission of "providing full spectrum, expeditionary, B-2 global strike and combat support capabilities... "
The 131st BW is proud and honored to be here, and we are committed to Team Whiteman. As the newness of the association wears off, we've worked through the glitches of this association and continue to leverage the unique Guard culture, the value of this commitment and the benefit that an ANG presence can bring to the mission will become even clearer than it is today. The 131st BW is here to maintain and fly the USAF's premier bomber, and we are here to help the 509th BW succeed in every mission. Thank you for welcoming us to your team.