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Missouri Air National Guard fulfills strength and readiness goals

Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, presented an award for achieving and maintaining 100 percent end strength for fiscal year 2014 to the commanders, command chiefs and representatives of the 131st Bomb Wing and the 139th Airlift Wing, Nov. 6, 2015 at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters in Jefferson City, Mo. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Mariah Best)

Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, presents an award for achieving and maintaining 100 percent end strength for fiscal year 2014 to the commanders, command chiefs and representatives of the 131st Bomb Wing and the 139th Airlift Wing, Nov. 6, 2015 at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters in Jefferson City, Mo. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Mariah Best)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo -- The Adjutant General of the Missouri National Guard, Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, recognized Missouri's Air component with a plaque for achieving and maintaining 100 percent end strength for fiscal year 2014, an accomplishment six years in the making.

The two wings that comprise Missouri's Air Force National Guard, the 131st Bomb Wing and the 139th Airlift Wing, have been working to recruit and retain Airmen for more than  half decade to ensure both wings are fully mission ready.

"We started our transition at Whiteman in 2007, and we received this award in 2014. It's the culmination of six years of building our organization at Whiteman Air Force Base," Col. Mike Francis, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing, said referring to when the 131st first moved to Whiteman from Lambert Airport in St. Louis.

"We lost a lot of great people in the transition so we had a lot of holes to fill," said Francis, "and our recruiters have been bringing on more than 100 recruits a year with a very small force."

Col. Ralph Schwader, commander of the 139th Airlift Wing, talked about Danner's priorities and goals for the Missouri Guard and how recruiting and retention is at the top of the list.

"Recruiting and retention is an every-member effort, not just recruiters," Schwader said. "Chief [Miller] and I have spent a lot of time over the past couple years basically invigorating the wing members to get out and bring in their neighbors and their families, and it's been hugely successful."

By having wing members bring in their family and friends to the Air Guard, referrals have gone from the lowest production tool to the highest in the past two years.

Schwader said the goal for both wings is to have 110 percent end strength, which creates more opportunities for the wings to garner new missions. He also explained why it is so important for each wing to set that 110 percent goal instead of just settling for 100.

"Unlike the active duty component, who has extra billets to stay at the number one rating for readiness, we have to have extra people.  If you stay at 100 percent, you would never be fully mission ready because you would constantly be training people. By achieving 110 percent, it provides you a little slack so you can maintain that 100 percent readiness level," Schwader said.

Chief Master Sgt. Randy Miller, the command chief of the 139th Airlift Wing, talked about the impact that each person makes and has had in the Missouri Air Guard.

"We have gone since 9/11 from a strategic reserve to a fully operational force within the Air Force, and we are called upon constantly, said Miller. "It's important to keep our readiness levels at an all-time high because of our ops tempo that we keep with all of our deployments."

Miller explained that receiving the award "is a reflection of our efforts in order to attain that 110 percent readiness level."

The wings recognize that although their goals are number-oriented, the people who join their force are more than a number; they are a high caliber asset.

"Our recruiting and retention team at the 131st and our manning team provide the life blood of our organization; great people make a great organization," Francis said.
"Our recruiters are not only bringing in the right number of Airmen, but I think more importantly they are bringing on high quality Airmen -- both prior service and young folks without prior military experience."

"Being fully manned with great people is a real accomplishment for our organization," he added.