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Air National Guardsmen Fill Vital Roles at Malmstrom

Airman 1st Class Casey LaLonde points to a map of the area the Malmstrom AFB Traffic Control Center supports. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nikolas Asmussen)

Airman 1st Class Casey LaLonde points to a map of the area the Malmstrom AFB Traffic Control Center supports. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nikolas Asmussen)

Malmstrom AFB, Mont -- Every day more than 80 Montana Air National Guardsmen work full-time alongside active duty Airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The Guardsmen serve one year under what is known as a Manpower Authorization tour or MPA.

Capt. William Thompson is a 341st Missile Wing plans officer and a medical administrator with the Montana Air National Guard. The Plans Office manages the MPA program in addition to its regular duties of maintaining wing plans and conducting exercises.

"The whole purpose of the program is total force integration," Thompson said. He added that the Air Guardsmen fill gaps left by not having enough civilian or active duty personnel.

Thompson also said that the program has grown from about 30 members to over 80 members in the last year. Air Guardsmen serve in more than 20 different occupational areas including security, safety, and supply.

"We also have members who augment security forces by escorting contractors who work in sensitive areas to make sure that we don't have to dedicate active duty security forces members to those kinds of functions," Thompson said. "We can use our Guard members to augment those kinds of things."

"I think every Guardsman should try to do it. It's a good chance to see another side of the Air Force," said Airman 1st Class Casey LaLonde, a controller in Malmstrom's Traffic Control Center.

LaLonde has been in his position for nearly a year. He coordinates the movement of various crews as they travel the 23,500 square mile missile complex ensuring Malmstrom's intercontinental ballistic missile mission is accomplished on a daily basis.

"I've learned a tremendous amount even in just a year," said LaLonde. "I feel like I'm a better Guardsman, a better Airman, just because of my time spent here," he said.

"With this job you meet so many different people and you learn from them in everyday situations," said Airman 1st Class Kimbra Knapp who works in Malmstrom's Protocol office.
Protocol handles VIP visits as well as coordinating special ceremonies.

Knapp says the experience helped when she tested to upgrade from and apprentice to a journeyman. For the Air Guard, Knapp is a personnel specialist.

"It's never a dull moment. Always crazy busy," she added.

Many of the Airmen on MPA tours work in fields different from their Guard careers, but for Airman 1st Class Morgan Hall it has been a chance to broaden his knowledge of the intelligence career field and the Air Force as a whole.

"Just being in the day-to-day military, it helps at the professional level when I go back to guard drills," said Hall.

Hall is an intelligence analyst with the Guard and is helping expand Malmstrom's intelligence mission.

"I've learned a whole lot about what it takes to set up and run a shop that I wouldn't have learned otherwise," Hall said.

Malmstrom is continuing to expand the program, allowing Air National Guard members to fill vital roles important to our nation's defense.
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