WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Lt. Col. Joanie Peterson, of Blue Springs, will be taking command of the 131st Bomb Wing Medical Group this weekend during a Change of Command ceremony.
Prior to being selected as the commander, she was the deputy commander for the 442nd Medical Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base as an Air Force Reservist. Before she became the deputy commander, Peterson was the chief nurse for the squadron.
Peterson was commissioned into the Air National Guard on Aug. 9. She has been with the Air Force Reserves since 1985.
As a captain, she served during Desert Storm as an interim commander for the 36th Aeroevacuation Squadron, when the unit was activated for six weeks.
Life in the military was something Peterson knew a lot about.
"I was born 'true blue,'" she said. Her father is a retired Air Force colonel. So she was raised in the Air Force life and travelled all over the country while he was in Strategic Air Command.
Peterson is excited about taking command and has set goals.
"Unification is the goal I have personally set for the group," she said. "Currently, the 131st Medical Group services three areas in three different parts of the state. The main location had been Lambert Field in St. Louis. However, the wing headquarters has been relocated to Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster. The other location is Jefferson Barracks, which is southwest of St Louis. With the group divided in servicing three areas, it is a challenge accomplishing training or command and control."
A personal goal of Peterson's is to get to know her leadership that is currently in place and to observe how the group currently operates.
"Though I have an idea of things I will expect from the group, I do want to be open to current operations," she said. "I am certain that there will be many changes that I want to implement, but not until I am familiar with the personalities, talents, and skills of the Guardsmen in the medical group."
Peterson looks forward to the opportunity to work with the 131st Bomb Wing command.
"I have been very impressed with Col. Greg Champagne and his vision," she said. "He has already done a spectacular job in transitioning the wing to the Whiteman location, procuring space, and setting in motion the future of the wing as an associate wing to the active duty 509th Bomb Wing. It is quite an impressive tasking and I am so proud to be a part of it."
Peterson said the greatest challenge with the new position is implementing new changes.
"People tend to get stuck in old patterns and routines," she said. "Change is scary, but if an organization does not embrace change, then it stops growing, and when it stops growing, it dies. I am not afraid of any challenge I will encounter in taking the command; in fact, I am a person that has a track record of being the 'fix it' person."
Peterson said she has a knack for fixing broken programs and she is definitely not insinuating that the Medical Group is broken.
"I am ready to take on any challenge that lies ahead; in fact, I look forward to those challenges," she said.
One challenge will be the transition of the group from the St. Louis area to central Missouri. This presents a difficult situation because most of the group is from the St. Louis area.
"I have been through both a squadron deactivation and a base closure in my past and I can honestly say that change like that is difficult and challenging," Peterson said. "However, in both cases, I am proud to look back and see the progress made, the space acquired, and the ability to do more with less. It will take some paradigm shifting and a commitment to the mission. I hope to be a good catalyst to that mission's ends.
Peterson said she hates to look at this command as a career move. She prefers to see it as an opportunity to command such a wonderful group of individuals.
"I have been serving under commanders faithfully for the past 25 years, some good and some not so good, so I have been fortunate enough to be able to observe leadership styles to serve as a guide for my own leadership style," she said. "I know the kind of commander I don't want to be, and the kind of commander I want to be. I am ready to take command and pray that I can be a good role model to a young troop."
Peterson was born at Forbes Air Force Base, now Forbes Field in Topeka, Kan. She has lived multiple places and her favorite place was where she went to high school at in Virginia. Her father worked at the Pentagon and the CIA, then retired in 1980. They then moved back to Kansas so that her mother could be near here parents after travelling their whole life with him.
She is supported in her decision to take command by her parents, retired Col. Paul and Jane Fortin; her husband, Kevin, who is a professional cameraman for all major networks including ESPN; their children, Jacob, Brandon, Timothy and Daniel; her brother, David Fortin, of Creston, Iowa, and John Fortin, of Juneau, Alaska; and her sister, Suzanne Fortin, of Lee's Summit, who is a head meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the Pleasant Hill Weather Center.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.