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Retired Missouri Air Guard Chief Gives Art ‘Wings’

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Keith Brown, center, presents his original artwork to 131st Bomb Wing leadership, Feb. 8, 2015.  Brown designed the illustration of the B-2 “Spirit of Missouri” especially for the 131st Bomb Wing, to commemorate the dedication of the bomber to the Missouri Air National Guard.  Pictured from left to right: Chief Master Sgt. Paul Carney, 131st Bomb Wing command chief, Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander, Brown, Col. Kenneth Eaves, 131st Bomb Wing vice commander, and Col. Michael Jurries, 131st Mission Support Group commander.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne)

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Keith Brown, center, presents his original artwork to 131st Bomb Wing leadership, Feb. 8, 2015. Brown designed the illustration of the B-2 “Spirit of Missouri” especially for the 131st Bomb Wing, to commemorate the dedication of the bomber to the Missouri Air National Guard. Pictured from left to right: Chief Master Sgt. Paul Carney, 131st Bomb Wing command chief, Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander, Brown, Col. Kenneth Eaves, 131st Bomb Wing vice commander, and Col. Michael Jurries, 131st Mission Support Group commander. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- What does it take to make military aircraft fly?  The answer that Keith Brown gives today, as an artist, differs dramatically from what he'd have told you years ago as a flight dispatcher in the Missouri Air National Guard.

"Some are fast, some are slow, some are heavy," said Brown of the various military aircraft he's rendered over the years.  "To get that moving on paper and make it fly - that is my passion."

The latest art to fly from the studio of the retired chief master sergeant is an illustration of the B-2 Spirit, captured landing on the runway here.  The words "Spirit of Missouri" and "Stealth Militia," hallmarks of the 131st Bomb Wing's flagship B-2, are details that make the piece personal to Brown's former unit - and to its current commander, who commissioned the artwork for the wing.

After serving alongside Brown, and knowing the quality of his artwork, Col. Michael Francis asked Brown to create a piece for the unit to celebrate the dedication of the "Spirit of Missouri" to the Missouri Air National Guard.  Francis said that although there are many pictures of the B-2 to be seen around the base, he noticed there was no artwork unique to the 131st. 

"We are very proud to have this illustration of our flagship," Francis said.  "It's a mark of our lasting legacy and of our new mission, commemorated by one of our own members.  The people here are going to come and go, but it will always be here."

This is not the first time that Brown's talents have been called upon; he was just 13 years old when he discovered his talent for drawing aircraft.  After his first commercial airline flight, he developed a deep curiosity about all things aviation, which led him to enroll in aircraft mechanic trade school while still in high school.  He studied flight theory and air traffic control, further broadening his aviation knowledge and strengthening his passion. After high school, Brown's love of aviation led him to join the Missouri Air National Guard.

It was the exposure he received in the Guard that initially propelled his art business forward, Brown said.  He began doing personal drawings for his coworkers and word spread about his talent.  The more work he did, the more work he was asked to do.

Brown spent 31 years working in aircraft operations and said that position gave him the opportunity to work closely with aircraft and the pilots that flew them. He worked in various positions in operations, gaining experience in all aspects of flight operations and in the command post, and eventually became the chief of airfield management, a position he held for the last 10 years of his career.

Those opportunities, he said, helped with his research and gave him access to details that helped him complete his projects. 

"Being immersed in the aviation culture meant that even if I couldn't see it, I could still put it on paper," Brown said.

Although his talents extend to other subjects, Brown said aircraft have always been his subject of choice because of the power and the versatility of different airplanes.

When he's not creating new art, Brown now works as a flight coordinator for a small commercial airline in St. Louis, and uses many of the skills he learned through his time in the military at his current job.  In the coming months, Brown plans to transition from his full-time job to full-time artist.