WHITEMAN AFB --
In a ceremony officiated by Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, Missouri National Guard adjutant general, Col. Gregory S. Champagne assumed command of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base March 20.
Colonel Champagne has served as acting commander since Col. Robert Leeker, previous wing commander, retired March 5. Prior to Colonel Leeker's departure, Champagne served as the wing's vice commander and played a key role in the wing's transition from its F-15 Eagle mission at Lambert Air National Guard Base in St. Louis to its current mission. The wing is now a classic associate wing with the 509th Bomb Wing, flying the B-2 Spirit at Whiteman.
Colonel Champagne was selected to command the 1,100-member wing by General Danner. Colonel Champagne said, everyone has goals throughout their career in the military, and this is the fulfillment of his.
"Being a wing commander is the ultimate goal in my career path," he said. "And being able to command the Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing is a great honor."
Colonel Champagne has already set four strategic goals for the wing over the next few years. The goals include keeping a strong commitment to total force integration with the 509th Bomb Wing, becoming experts in the B-2 mission, establishing an operating location at Lambert Field in St. Louis, and having the 131st Bomb Wing representation through higher headquarters, state and federal level to help tell the story of the Missouri Air National Guard.
Colonel Champagne is confident the goals set will be reached with highest standards.
"The commanders I have and the senior noncommissioned officers are outstanding," Colonel Champagne said.
Colonel Champagne feels the transition to wing commander will be smooth for his Airmen and for him.
"I have been in this wing my entire career," he said. "I'm not a new face to them."
His previous experience as a squadron and group commander mean many of the unit's Airmen are already familiar with him.
"They are used to my command style," he said. "Though the level of commitment is different, it doesn't change the person you are."
Colonel Champagne began his career in the Missouri Air National Guard when he received his commission through the Academy of Military Science. He has flown F-4 Phantoms, F-15 Eagles, and achieved combat mission ready status in the B-2 Spirit in 2008, accumulating more than 3,100 flight hours.
Additionally, Champagne has a broad background of experience with assignments in flying operations, logistics, aircraft maintenance, a National Guard Bureau staff assignment, and wing staff positions. He has flown combat missions in Operations Provide Comfort and Southern Watch. He commanded the 407th Air Expeditionary Group at Tallil Air Base, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Champagne has been awarded numerous medals, ribbons and other citations, including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leave clusters, Air Force and Army Commendation medals, Air Force Achievement Medal and Joint Meritorious Unit Award.
Champagne is a graduate of Tarkio College in Tarkio, Mo.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-888-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com