Command information

  • Published
  • By Col. Lee Smith
  • 120th Airlift Wing Commander
I want to start by simply saying “Thank You”. It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to be your commander these past two-plus years and I can’t thank you enough for what this experience has meant to me both personally and professionally.

Before coming to the 120th, I was not only an outsider…I was the Active Duty outsider…who made at least one of you cringe at the thought I was coming. (Frankly, I loved that kind of honesty in the DEOCS survey). But once I arrived, you didn’t treat me like one. It was asking a lot to not only trust me as your new commander, but to have faith in me and in the direction we were going. You also embraced my family and me as members of the Vigilante Family as much as you embraced the new mission and words cannot express how much I appreciate that.

Looking back at the past two years, I’m amazed at all that we have accomplished. You tackled the challenges of conversion with a simple determination that Montanans, and especially Vigilantes, are known for. But you not only met the challenges, you crushed them with a level of sustained excellence few, if any, units can match. While 60% of the wing was retraining into new career fields, you still managed to meet every tasking to support our Nation and State. You even volunteered for a few extra missions not because you could, but because you wanted to.

While learning a new mission, you flew over 2650 sorties, including 87 HHQ missions, delivering 1039 passengers, over 690 tons of cargo and airdropped over 2700 paratroopers. You mobilized and deployed 168 Airmen in support of operations around the world and supported the nuclear mission here at home with 20,424 man-days at Malmstrom AFB. Our first responders answered the call on 77 mutual aids requests saving lives and property in Great Falls and across the state. But you stayed connected with your communities too, serving over 1300 meals during the Danny Berg memorial over Thanksgiving, supporting the Overlook Park flag, meals on wheels, etc…all of which has an impact that cannot be expressed in simple economic terms.

You met our End of Conversion goal on time and then just three weeks later deployed on the wing’s largest deployment in 8 years to Southwest Asia in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. There, you showed the mobility world what Vigilantes are capable of, setting records for the amount of passengers, cargo, hours and sorties flown in a four-month period. Simply amazing.

And during this whole time you earned some incredible recognition at the national level too. For example, the #1 SFS in the ANG for 2014, the #1 AFE program in the ANG for 2015 (within one year after standing up), the #1 Air Transportation Activity for 2016 in the Guard AND Reserves (again within 2 years after standing up our Small Air Terminal from scratch), our Big Sky Medics were honored as the #1 of 73 medical units in the ANG SG’s 2016 Readiness Scorecard, our PA team taking home multiple ANG and AF-level awards every year in the annual Media Contest, the ANG’s 2016 nomination for the Air Force Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award, and oh yeah, two consecutive Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards. Again, simply amazing.

I’ll end this the same way I started by saying, Thank You. Thank you for your outstanding pride and dedication and for what you and your families do each and every day. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a Citizen Airman and what the ANG brings to the fight for our Nation and State. I can only hope that my time here inspired and motivated you to learn, to dream, to innovate, to understand, to teach, to do more and become more…because I know you’ve done that for me.

I wish each of you the very best and if you’re ever at Scott AFB, I’ll roll out the welcome mat.

Vigilantes – Ready to Ride!