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131st Bomb Wing commander wraps up the year before holidays

Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander, Missouri Air National Guard, addresses the wing at the 2013 year-end all call Dec 8, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Francis discussed the achievements of the past year and outlined his vision for the next. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Dampf/RELEASED)

Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander, Missouri Air National Guard, addresses the wing at the 2013 year-end all call Dec 8, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Francis discussed the achievements of the past year and outlined his vision for the next. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Dampf/RELEASED)

131st Bomb Wing commander Col Mike Francis and wing command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Carney stand with the 131st Airman of the Year winners.  Pictured (center l to r):  Capt. Daniel Uchtmann, Master Sgt. Frank Pliemling, Senior Master Sgt. Nicholas Eyman, Staff Sgt. Tyler Owenby. Senior Airman Ashlea Garrison  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison)

131st Bomb Wing commander Col Mike Francis and wing command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Carney stand with the 131st Airman of the Year winners. Pictured (center l to r): Capt. Daniel Uchtmann, Master Sgt. Frank Pliemling, Senior Master Sgt. Nicholas Eyman, Staff Sgt. Tyler Owenby. Senior Airman Ashlea Garrison (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo -- Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander, Missouri Air National Guard, addressed the entire wing here Dec. 8 to review the past year and to set the stage for 2014.

From carrying out routine exercises to earning high marks during multiple inspections, the 131st has made 2013 a historic year by becoming the first Air National Guard wing to become nuclear certified.

The hard work that the members of the 131st have done to fulfill their mission has not gone unnoticed throughout the armed forces, Francis said.

"Many are impressed that an Air National Guard unit is flying the B-2 Spirit, making a classic association work, and exceeding the incredibly high standards required by the nuclear mission," Francis told his Airmen. "It was really nothing short of spectacular. I can tell you two things: It does not happen by accident, it was the product of the individual efforts of each and every one of you."

With many more exercises and inspections on the schedule, the 131st's vision and goals make it very clear that it needs to maintain readiness for the coming year. One of the ways it intends to do that is to focus on developing its people.

"I do not believe that good Airmen are born - they are made through experience, mentoring, and development for a 21st century Air National Guard," said Francis. "One of the areas I think we can improve is the development of our Airmen in both the officer and enlisted corps."

This sentiment rang true throughout his speech. While fulfilling the nuclear mission and being perpetually ready to respond to state emergencies, the 131st needs to prioritize training and mentoring the up-and-coming generation of Guardsmen, said Francis.

During his address to the wing, Francis also recognized major individual awards received recently by Missouri Air Guardsmen, including:

Air National Guard Chaplain of the Year: Chaplain Lt. Col. Michael Butler (131st Bomb Wing)
ANG-level recipients for the Gen John P. Jumper Award for Excellence in Warfighting Integration and Air Force Information Dominance:
Maj. Joseph Meister, Airman 1st Class LaDarryon Brown, Tech. Sgt. James Kline,
Tech. Sgt. Timothy Loyd (239th Combat Communications Squadron),
Tech. Sgt. Melissa Heupel (131st Bomb Wing)

131st Bomb Wing Outstanding Airmen of the Year:
Senior Airman Ashlea Garrison (Airman)
Staff Sgt. Tyler Owenby (Non-commissioned Officer)
Senior Master Sgt. Nicholas Eyman (Senior Non-commissioned Officer)
Master Sgt. Frank Pliemling (First Sergeant)
Capt. Daniel Uchtmann (Officer)

As a final charge to supervisors, Francis gave this instruction: "Get out there and ask your troops, 'How can we do this better? What problems are you facing?' If we do that to produce better Airmen and we improve our processes, then the mission will take care of itself."