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Missouri State Command Chief tours 131st BW Mission at Whiteman

On his recent tour of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri State Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Sluder (right) tours the B-2 “Spirit of Nebraska”.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Halley Burgess)

On his recent tour of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri State Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Sluder (right) tours the B-2 “Spirit of Nebraska”. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Halley Burgess)

On his recent tour of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri State Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Sluder (right) visits the weapons load trainer dock.  There he is briefed on B-2 weapons capabilities and operations by Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Zuniga, a 131st Maintenance Group weapons specialist. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Halley Burgess)

On his recent tour of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri State Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Sluder (right) visits the weapons load trainer dock. There he is briefed on B-2 weapons capabilities and operations by Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Zuniga, a 131st Maintenance Group weapons specialist. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Halley Burgess)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Missouri -- Missouri State Command Chief Master Sgt. Joe Sluder visited the 131st Bomb Wing's Citizen-Airmen and got an up-close look at Whiteman's B-2 operations during his recent trip to the base.

The visit provided Sluder with the opportunity to view the unique capabilities that this Missouri Air National Guard unit provides to the state of Missouri and to the United States Air Force, and highlighted the wing's successful Total Force Integration with the active duty 509th Bomb Wing.

"TFI works incredibly well at Whiteman, due to the leadership and professionalism of the 509th and the 131st," Sluder said. "The 509th leadership understands what the Guard is all about and has the utmost respect for Air National Guard Airmen alongside them; likewise, the 131st leadership understands the active duty Air Force and has the utmost respect for the 509th Airmen integrated throughout the wing, which is why TFI works. In my opinion, it is the best example of Total Force Integration in the Air Force."

A topic of keen interest for Sluder is passion, a theme that he cited again and again during his visit with Airmen, and also in an open letter sent via email to the entire wing.  According to Sluder, passion is the most important attribute that leaders at all levels can use to inspire their fellow Airmen to meet the mission and develop to their best potential.

"You can't teach passion, you can't lecture to it, you have to inspire it as a leader," Sluder said. "You just have to show your Airmen how much you care and enjoy what you're doing. Inspiring passion is just about speaking from the heart and letting your actions show that you truly care, that you are genuine. If they know you're genuine, they'll believe you and follow you anywhere."

In addition to inspiring passion, Sluder offered four items that he does each day, and challenged Missouri's Citizen-Airmen to also do every day to ensure they optimize his priorities of counseling, mentoring and development:

The first is keep at peak state, which is paying close attention to the Comprehensive Airman Fitness pillars in order to keep their bodies, minds, spirits and social support networks alive and well, Sluder said.

The second act is to maintain a laser focus, Sluder told Airmen. Concentrating on one's multi-tasking while prioritizing responsibilities and managing time effectively is key, as is paying close attention to colleagues and subordinates.

The third step is to be 'all in,' Sluder said. Airmen must give their best every day and never take any day for granted.

The last step is raising the bar, an action that Sluder took time to speak to during his visit:

"I am going to be a very engaged leader and want to let Airmen know what has worked for me," he said. "I'm always trying to look at what I did today and see if there is a better way I could do it tomorrow, and then I build upon that."

Sluder grew up in Tampa, Florida, and joined the Air Force in 1987, serving in the aerospace control and warning systems career field as a weapons director until he separated from active duty in 1999. The next year he enlisted in the Arizona Air National Guard, where he served as the superintendent of the Weapons Director Schoolhouse at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

Sluder's joint experience is highlighted by his deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2011-2012 as the 455th Operations Group superintendent. Since August of 2013 he was the command senior enlisted leader for Joint Task Force North until assuming responsibility as the state command chief master sergeant of Missouri in June.

In addition to his duties as state command chief master sergeant, Sluder also serves as principle advisor to the Missouri Air National Guard Chiefs Councils. He is the functional manager of the Missouri State First Sergeants Councils and performs other duties as outlined by Missouri Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Steve Danner.

During his visit Sluder toured Whiteman's flight, maintenance and support operations, which included a B-2 dock tour, where Airmen briefed him on the specific B-2 strike capabilities and weaponry. He also visited the weapons load trainer dock and met Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Zuniga, a 131st Maintenance Group weapons specialist, who discussed B-2 weapons capabilities and operations. The maintenance operations portion of the tour ended in the B-2 low-observable maintenance facility, where Sluder was briefed on the stealth characteristics of the B-2.

"I know our wing leadership and our Airmen alike appreciate Chief Sluder's interest in our mission and what we're doing to take care of and develop our people into the high-quality leaders that our state and the Guard need," said wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Carney.  "As one of the first places in the state he's visited as he comes aboard, I couldn't be more proud of the positive impression of us that he's taking away."

Sluder was indeed impressed by the professionalism of all of the Airmen that he visited, particularly Tech. Sgt. Shaun Taft, 131st Maintenance Squadron, along with Zuniga, who gave Sluder formal presentations of their missions and talked candidly about issues they thought the chief could engage in, as well as recommendations to increase morale and continue to improve the climate at the 131st.

"I met a lot of inspiring Airmen today," Sluder said. "Tech Sgts. Taft and Zuniga were two of the finest I've met. Incredible briefers who love their job and honestly, they were an inspiration to me; I was pumped after talking to them."

Sluder left Whiteman with a very positive impression of the 131st.

"Interacting and talking with all the Airmen, seeing the young people and their attitude, their initiative and their fire makes me very confident that we are all in very good hands during this time of change and adaptation," Sluder said. "These Airmen are the future enlisted leaders in the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force.  I could not be prouder to call myself a fellow Airman of the ones I toured with today.  (131st Bomb Wing Commander) Col. (Michael) Francis and Chief Carney lead from the front and the wing has taken on their personalities. Job well done."