131st Wing Commander Praises 2015 Efforts, Prepares For Year Ahead

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Traci Howells
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 131st Bomb Wing commander held the traditional end-of-year commander's call today to review significant events, recognize Outstanding Airmen of the Year winners and to close out a productive 2015. 

Col. Michael Francis opened the event with a video message from Missouri Adjutant General Steve Danner, which emphasized the importance of mentorship within the National Guard, specifically among women. After the message, Francis invited Airmen to sign up for the wing's new women's mentorship initiative.

Francis began by praising the wing for a job well done throughout the year.  He noted that the wing was in excellent shape at the close of 2014, and admitted that he had expected 2015 to be a normal year. Instead, the year exceeded expectations, he said. Noting that all commanders tell their units they're busy, Francis emphasized how true that statement is for the 131st, adding, "they're not doing it in the B-2.  They're not doing it in the nuclear enterprise."

"Every year it looks like this," he said. "Your effort is above and beyond.  It's important and high visibility."

The year began with major operational exercises, including Red Flag, Neptune Falcon and Constant Vigilance into the spring, along with the 157th Air Operations Group deployment in support of Exercise Pacific Sentry and the 239th Combat Communications Squadron support to the Guard's CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package exercise evaluation.

Following a successful two-week AT "Week" at Camp Clark and extensive training here and across the state, the wing unveiled the 131st's own heritage air park at Whiteman, which proudly displays three static aircraft from the unit's history.

The Director of the Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, visited Jefferson Barracks in July, and the highest ranking enlisted member in the Department of Defense, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, traveled to Whiteman in August for the specific purpose of visiting the 131st.

Global Strike Challenge, the world's premier bomber, intercontinental ballistic missile and security forces competition, culminated in October.  The total force team of the 131st and the 509th bomb wings won multiple awards this year, including the Mitchell Trophy for best bomb accuracy, the Tibbets Trophy for the best B-2 squadron, and the LeMay Trophy for best bomber squadron. The wing also took home an award for the best bomber nuclear load and aircraft crew chief team. And, for the third year in a row, and four out of five years, the Fairchild Trophy sits at Whiteman.
"I see the work you do every day so I already knew how exceptional you are," Francis said. "Occasionally we have a chance to prove it to the rest of the Air Force. Three years straight is not a fluke. It happens because of the extremely high level of professionalism and expertise across the wing."

Into fall, there was no slowing down, as inspectors from Air Force Global Strike Command arrived to the base for the nuclear surety inspection, which the unit passed with flying colors, with high marks across the board.

"It's a sustained level of excellence required to have that kind of performance," Francis said.

Francis also recognized 131st Bomb Wing Outstanding Airmen of the Year winners during his address, including:

· Airman: Senior Airman Nathan Dampf, 131st Bomb Wing staff
· Noncommissioned Officer: Staff Sgt. Staci Cooper, 131st Operations Group
· Senior Noncommissioned Officer: Master Sgt. John Ilnicky, 131st Maintenance Group
· First Sergeant: Master Sgt. Jason Henke, 157th Air Operations Group
· Company Grade Officer: Capt. Matt Payne, 131st Maintenance Group
· Field Grade Officer: Lt. Col. Michael Miller, 157th Air Operations Group

On the heels of a fantastic year, Francis reiterated that the 131st will not rest on its laurels, but instead will continue to get better.

"I'm going to get better," Francis said. "I'm challenging you all to be better. Not to work harder, but to be better and execute better than we did this year."

As he closed out his address, Francis extended holiday wishes and encouraged the Airmen to be safe and to take care of each other and their families during the holiday season. He emphasized the importance of taking time off to recharge and to reflect on all of the hard work that has been put in throughout the year.

"It's an unbelievable honor to be your commander," Francis said. "You are part of something extremely special and I could not be more proud of the work you all have done."