Three assume squadron command with Missouri Guard's 157th Air Operations Group

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jeffrey Bishop, APR.
  • Chief, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Three new commanders took charge of three new squadrons at a single assumption of command ceremony during November drill here.

The event installed permanent leadership over the 157th Air Intelligence Squadron, the 157th Combat Operations Squadron and the 157th Air Communications Squadron, new units of the 157th Air Operations Group.

"We gain three new commanders today," said Col. William Boothman, 157th AOG commander and presiding official at the ceremony. "They're here to accept the challenges that accompany leadership. Each of the commanders leads from the front, and will develop each squadron as a successful unit."

During the unique three-in-one assumption of command ceremony, each leader was installed in turn, then took turns giving remarks to the assembled Citizen-Airmen of the entire group. Master Sgt. Douglas Biffar proffered the guidon for the 157th AIS; Staff Sgt. Heather Campbell supported the 157th COS; while Master Sgt. Thomas Dumont presented the guidon for the 157th ACS.

"This is a great unit, you are a great squadron; the most skilled AIS in the Air National Guard," said Col. Chip Atterbury, 157th AIS, in praise of his squadron. "This is something I not only feel, but is something that I can support with documentation. Together we live the Latin words for 'find, fix, destroy': quarere, venari, extinguo.

Atterbury was commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps after graduating from Stanford University in 1987, and has 29 years of experience as a career intelligence officer in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, as well as with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He has deployed in support of Operations Northern Watch, Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve and Tomodachi.

"When I looked for a way to serve, after I decided to get back in after 2001, I thought flying was where I wanted to go. Until I deployed in 2003 with this group," said Lt. Col. James Hendren, 157th COS commander. "When I saw what an AOC does, I decided this is the work I need to be involved in. It is important work that we do. That is why I say it is an honor to be a squadron commander in an organization like this."

Hendren was commissioned in 1985 and flew the OV-10 Bronco and the F-15C before separating from active duty in 1992. In 2003, he joined the 157th AOG and has served in a number of leadership roles with the group, as well as deploying as chief of combat operations for the 609th Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, four times in the last two years.

"I appreciate everyone's trust and support in me as commander of the 'ACOMMS.' I accept the command position with passion and dedication to meet mission. I'm committed to be productive, I'm committed to be professional, and I'm committed to being the best commander I need to be for the people of this organization," said Lt. Col. Thomas Bischoff, 157th ACS.

Bischoff enlisted in 1996 and obtained his commission in 1997. In 2004, he transferred to the 157th AOG, and has deployed with U.S. Special Forces units in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, along with Joint Special Operations Task Force - Juniper Shield, the focal point for Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) operations in the Trans Sahara region of Africa.

The new units stood up earlier this year, following formal approval by the National Guard Bureau of a longstanding organizational change request designed to standardize air operations center organization models and alignments. A related action also realigned the 157th AOG from Headquarters, Missouri Air National Guard to the 131st Bomb Wing.

When the squadrons formally stood up was a dynamic time for the group, with more than 80 group Airmen deployed to the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid. Boothman, already acting commander for the group, was dual-hatted as 157th COS commander. Pending redeployment of the intended squadron leaders, Maj. Dan Schepers served as acting commander for the 157th AIS, while Maj. Jeffrey Pricher was interim commander for the 157th ACS.

Before making their leadership official, Boothman shared with his new commanders wisdom gleaned from his own squadron command tour.

"It'll be the hardest job you ever have," he said. "But I guarantee, it will also be the best job you ever have."