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Command chief focuses, adjusts to new role

WHITEMAN AFB -- Chief Master Sgt. Rich Pingleton, took his position as command chief for the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base during ceremonies held Jan. UTA.

As a command chief, Chief Pingleton will be an advocate and voice for the enlisted force. He will also be an advisor for the wing commander on morale, education, and the health and welfare of the wing's Airmen. He said he is excited about the new position because he wants to help continue the transition from Lambert to Whiteman AFB.

"My number one goal is to take care of the people," Chief Pingleton said. "We are still in transition."

Some Airmen currently working at Whiteman are still commuting from the St. Louis area.

"A big challenge for us is helping our Airmen use their talents to grab a hold of processes to own and let them see how they fit into a classic associate unit," he said.

The 131st Fighter Wing came from a mission where they were self-supported on all aspects of the F-15 Eagle at Lambert Air National Guard Base. In 2005, when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission called for the transfer of the wing's F-15s, the wing was realigned for the new mission of supporting the United State Air Force in its B-2 Spirit Bomber mission at Whiteman AFB and became known as the 131st Bomb Wing.

In 2000, Pingleton was promoted to the Chief Master Sgt. After being in that position a few years, he said he felt like he needed to do something with the training he had received and planned to become a command chief.

"I wanted to expand and use the leadership skills I have acquired over the years," Chief Pingleton said. "The wing was good enough to make me a Chief Master Sgt., so it is the least I can do."

Establishing a new mission at Whiteman while drawing down the F-15 mission at Lambert has required wing leaders to split their time between the two locations. Now, the Guardsmen are establishing themselves on Whiteman and have found that the new mission has opened up new opportunities for them.

"My focus for the first few years as command chief is developing wingmen, leaders and warriors," Chief Pingleton said.

He plans to develop this through his supervision to promote looking out for each other, being ready for battle and being a leader.

"You don't have to have a bunch of stripes to be a leader," Chief Pingleton said.

Chief Pingleton joined the military when he was 19 years old. Although he had relatives in the military, his main reason for joining was to "do something on a bigger scale and do something for my country." He has been with the Missouri Air National Guard for 21 years and spent six years prior to that in the active duty Air Force. He has deployed to countries including Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

He liked the military option because they took care of their people and offered stability, he said.

His career started in munitions when he joined the Air Force and carried into to his Guard career. He then moved to aircraft maintenance where he crossed trained to become a crew chief. In 1998, he became the maintenance operations flight superintendent. When the position came to Whiteman in September 2009, he stayed behind at Lambert. Oct. 1, he took the position of munitions accountability systems officer at Lambert on the full-time forefront. As the systems officer, he has the accountability of all ammunition that the 131st Bomb Wing and supporting units at Jefferson Barracks and Cannon Range, located at Fort Leonard Wood, along with some Navy units.

In his career as a Guardsman, Chief Pingleton said his most memorable accomplishment was being able to lead a deployment to Iceland in 2006 for the Aerospace Expeditionary Force. He was placed in charge of the maintenance group where he was able to take care of his people and plan on both the technical and supervisory level. He was able to use the training he received to provide for the Airmen.

"There was a lot of job satisfaction in that," Chief Pingleton said.