Words from the Vice Wing Commander
By commentary by Col. Gregory Champagne, 131st Bomb Wing
/ Published January 24, 2010
WHITEMAN -- It has been two and a half years since I arrived at Whiteman as the first Guardsman to integrate into the B-2 mission. I remember my first day at Whiteman.
After arriving onto base I stopped at the shopette. While in line to check out an A1C in front of me noticed my patches and introduced himself. He was from the Weapons Shop and told me how excited he was that the Air National Guard was coming to the B-2 mission.
He also said that he was looking forward to working with the 131st maintainers. I have to say I was impressed by this conversation and the greeting I received. As the integration at Whiteman has progressed, the 131st has received the same type of open arm welcome from every section at Whiteman. We cannot thank all the members of the 509th enough for your professionalism and hospitality.
Total Force Integration is a new concept within the AF. When our military leaders enacted this idea they did not exactly know how to implement it, so they relied on the units involved to coordinate efforts. Which is exactly what the 509th and 131st have done over the past few years.
The flow of 131st personnel is on schedule with more than 450 aviation package (OPS and MXG) manning positions already integrated into the 509th. The next stage is to integrate the 131st support functions with the B-2 mission. The plan is to have these positions completely integrated by fall 2011. At that time the 131st personnel total will be approximately 700.
Not all of these 700 personnel will be here Monday through Friday. One of the core concepts of the National Guard is the traditional member, who works one weekend a month and two consecutive weeks a year. These members typically have civilian occupations and choose to serve our country in a traditional status. Many of these traditional guardsmen/women are previous active duty members that bring expertise to the fight. Many members have experience in their civilian occupation that directly correlates to their military duties. I cannot count the times I have relied on a member's civilian experience and contacts to solve problems that arise.
By design, National Guard members are responsible for supporting two missions. The oath of enlistment for members of the Missouri National Guard includes: ...AND THAT I WILL OBEY THE ORDERS OF THE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI.
Our federal obligation involves the B-2 mission and supports the wars overseas. Since 9/11, Approximately 425 members have deployed from the 131st in this federal mission. During state emergencies we may also be called up to support our governor. Members within the 131st can be state mobilized during the year due to weather related issues such as flooding, ice storms and tornado damage.
Last year 80 members of the 131st were mobilized by the state of Missouri. We also have agreements with other states to assist with extreme emergencies, such as Hurricane Katrina. The state of Missouri had approximately 2000 members deployed and numerous C-130 missions flown out of the ANG unit in St. Joseph, MO to assist our fellow Americans in Louisiana.
This unique state mission combined with our traditional members make the National Guard, by design, different then active duty. But these differences, combined with our common perspective that we are all citizens of this great country who chose to serve, are what make us, here at Whiteman, an even stronger integrated team.
I recently went to a National Guard senior leadership conference in Washington DC where Whiteman was recognized as a leader in TFI. The success of the 509th and 131st to integrate as one team has the AF looking at future TFIs. The willingness of everyone to welcome others into their sections and fully integrate each of us into the unique B-2 mission has truly made TFI a success story at Whiteman. The members of the 131st are very proud to be part of the B-2 mission and part of the Whiteman team.