Francis named Air Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing vice commander

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  • By Rachel Knight
  • UPAR
Col. Michael J. Francis has been named vice commander of the Missouri National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base.

Colonel Francis is now second in command of the National Guard's only B-2 unit, which provides nearly 1,100 combat-ready Airmen for both state and federal missions. Prior to becoming the vice commander, Colonel Francis served as the 131st Operations Group commander beginning in February 2009.

"My new position will afford me the opportunity to work with all of the organizations of the 131st Bomb Wing," said Colonel Francis. "It has been very rewarding working with the outstanding members of operations group as we have transitioned to the B-2, but I look forward to getting involved with the rest of the wing. We have great people across the wing, and I'm excited to start working with all of them."

Colonel Francis has had an integral role in the movement and standup of the 131st Bomb Wing into a classic associate wing with the 509th Bomb Wing. The wings are responsible for delivering precision global strike of both conventional and nuclear payloads in the world's premier strategic bomber, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.

"I hope to bring some of the successes that I had as a group commander to my new job as the vice commander," Colonel Francis said. "Col. Greg Champagne (wing commander) has set out a roadmap for the wing."

Colonel Champagne has already set four strategic goals for the wing over the next few years. The goals include keeping a strong commitment to total force integration with the 509th Bomb Wing, becoming experts in the B-2 mission, establishing an operating location at Lambert Field in St. Louis, and having the 131st Bomb Wing representation through higher headquarters, state and federal level to help tell the story of the Missouri Air National Guard.

"My focus will be on executing his vision for the wing. He has set an ambitious agenda for transition," Colonel Francis said. "Having spent the last two years transitioning the operations group, I have some experience that I hope will be beneficial as I help the rest of the wing complete its transition."

The 131st Bomb Wing supports three tenant units, 231st Civil Engineer Flight, 239th Combat Communications Squadron, and the 571st Air Force Band, as well as two geographically separate units, Cannon Range near Fort Leonard Wood and the 157th Air Operations Group at Jefferson Barracks.

Colonel Francis entered the Air Force in 1989 after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy. After graduation from undergraduate pilot training, Francis served as an F-15 instructor pilot during two operational tours with the 1st Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base, Va., and the 18th Wing, Kadena Airbase, Japan. Upon returning from oversees, his final active duty assignment was as an operational test pilot within the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

"I joined the Air Force to become a fighter pilot," Colonel Francis said. "I have far exceeded any of the goals that I set for myself as a second lieutenant. But with each new accomplishment came another set of goals to strive for. I have always tried to be the best at what I do. Now, I will do everything in my power to be the best vice commander I can be. I owe that to all the people that count on me to do my job. I count on them, they count on me. That's what makes our profession special."

In 1998, Colonel Francis transitioned to the Missouri Air National Guard as an F-15 instructor pilot. Since then he has amassed over 3,000 hours in the F-15 and B-2 while serving as flight commander, aircraft maintenance squadron commander, operations group commander and now in his current capacity as the vice commander.

"I have commanded a squadron and a group, but my most memorable accomplishment has to be the deployments that I have been on with the wing," Colonel Francis said. "Whether it was deploying to the desert or going TDY to Key West, I have always enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with taking our mission on the road."

Colonel Francis said he could not have accomplished everything without his family. His parents were the reason he joined the Air Force. His father was a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War.

"He has had a profound influence on my life," Colonel Francis said. "My mother was the daughter of an Air Force colonel and she taught me the strong military values that she grew up with."

His wife has been the "single most important person" to the opportunities that Colonel Francis has had in the Air Force.

"Without her sacrifices, I could not have accomplished what I have," Colonel Francis said. He also has two sons, Greg and Brian.

"As a father of two boys, I try to set a good example for them to follow," Colonel Francis said. "Part of that is attributed to my service in the Missouri Air National Guard. It is extremely important to me that they understand the importance of our service to the country."