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131st Maintenance Group commander retires

131st Maintenance Group Commander Col. Michael Belardo delivers remarks during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021, in Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo retired from the Missouri Air National Guard after many years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley)

131st Maintenance Group Commander Col. Michael Belardo delivers remarks during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021, in Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo retired from the Missouri Air National Guard after many years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley)

Retired Lt. Col. Ryan Bailey, former 131st Bomb Wing pilot, presents Col. Michael Belardo with a certificate f retirement during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Belardo, a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber pilot and 131st Maintenance Group commander, retired after many years of service in the Missouri Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Retired Lt. Col. Ryan Bailey, former 131st Bomb Wing pilot, presents Col. Michael Belardo with a certificate f retirement during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Belardo, a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber pilot and 131st Maintenance Group commander, retired after many years of service in the Missouri Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Maj. Gen. Levon Cumpton, Missouri National Guard Adjutant General, presents Col. Michael Belardo with a coin during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021 at Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo was the 131st Maintenance Group commander. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Maj. Gen. Levon Cumpton, Missouri National Guard Adjutant General, presents Col. Michael Belardo with a coin during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021 at Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo was the 131st Maintenance Group commander. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Col. Michael Belardo, 131st Maintenance Group commander, is presented with a retirement pin by his spouse during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021, in Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo retired from the Missouri Air National Guard after many years of service. ((U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley)

Col. Michael Belardo, 131st Maintenance Group commander, is presented with a retirement pin by his spouse during his retirement ceremony Oct. 2, 2021, in Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo retired from the Missouri Air National Guard after many years of service. ((U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley)

Retired Lt. Col. Ryan Bailey delivers remarks during a retirement ceremony for Col. Michael Belardo Oct. 2, 2021, at Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo, the 131st Maintenance Group commander, retired from the Missouri Air National Guard after many years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley)

Retired Lt. Col. Ryan Bailey delivers remarks during a retirement ceremony for Col. Michael Belardo Oct. 2, 2021, at Knob Noster, Missouri. Belardo, the 131st Maintenance Group commander, retired from the Missouri Air National Guard after many years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The Missouri National Guard’s 131st Maintenance Group commander retired from the Air Force during an October 2, 2021, ceremony in Knob Noster, Missouri.

Col. Michael Belardo served as the 131st Maintenance Group commander and also led the Missouri Air National Guard’s COVID-19 Response Team, Task Force Freedom, during the state’s pandemic response.

Retired Lt. Col. Ryan Bailey, a former 131st Bomb Wing pilot who presided over the event, spoke of Belardo’s dedication, leadership, and genuine connection to his Airmen. A command pilot with more than 2,600 flight hours, Belardo began his military journey as a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He earned his degree and commission in 2000.

Col. Belardo reminisced on his former years as an Academy student. After graduating, he served more than a decade in the Regular Air Force before transitioning to the Missouri Air National Guard as a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber pilot and maintenance officer. He expressed sincere thanks to many who had supported him and his family through the years, and he praised the pilots of the 110th Bomb Squadron, who were present at the ceremony. 
 
“The most enjoyable part of this job, and the thing I’m going to miss most, is just talking to all of you,” he said. “I have truly enjoyed becoming friends with so many of you, knowing your story, your families, your struggles — our struggles.”

Maj. Gen. Levon Cumpton, Adjutant General for the Missouri National Guard, presented a challenge coin to Col. Belardo and his wife for their support and commitment to the State of Missouri. Belardo relinquished command of the 131st Maintenance Group to Lt. Col. Chad Larson during October drill.

Col. Belardo finished his speech with a request to the attendees: “If I could leave you with one thing — if you could do one thing for me — it’s appreciate what you get to do and reflect on how important it is and how uniquely qualified you are. Don’t take a second of it, or the people that you work with, for granted.”