Change of Command for 120th AW
By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson, 120th Airlift Wing
/ Published May 04, 2015
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- A C-130 Hercules aircraft undergoing maintenance in the 120th Airlift Wing's main hangar provided the backdrop for a historic change of command ceremony conducted in front of a formation of Airmen during the March unit training assembly.
Air Force Col. Leslie "Lee" T. Smith accepted command of the wing from Air National Guard Col. J. Peter Hronek in a ceremony presided over by the Commander of the Montana Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. Bryan Fox.
In addition to civic leaders and local government officials, the visiting dignitaries at the ceremony included Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Air Mobility Command Commander Gen. Darren McDew, the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel and Montana's Adjutant General of the Montana Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn.
Fox highlighted many accomplishments the wing achieved during Hronek's five-year tenure as wing commander.
"Colonel Hronek, your leadership has been simply magnificent," said Fox. "You successfully led the wing through three of the most significant challenges we've ever faced. The conversion from the F-16 to the F-15, the preparation and execution of two air sovereignty alert missions, and the total force initiative challenges which realigned the F-15 mission away from Montana and replaced it with the C-130 flying mission."
Smith provides an extensive active-duty Air Force experience that includes flying C-130s at a time when the unit continues with a conversion from fighters to transport aircraft.
A command pilot with over 4,000 hours of flight time in C-130, C-20 and C-21 aircraft, Smith has also flown more than 550 combat and combat support hours during Operations Joint Guard, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Prior to taking command of the 120th Airlift Wing, Smith's previous assignment was serving as the 86th Airlift Wing's Vice Commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
MTANG leadership considers Smith's command of the 120th Airlift Wing as being one which will pay long-term dividends and serve to build trust and understanding between the active duty and Air National Guard components.
Fox is optimistic that the knowledge gained through this new arrangement can be carried forward for future assignments and also helps to pave the way for further integration here and throughout the Air Force.
"We collectively have the potential to weave the combat power of our active duty and the Guard forces into one fabric to best serve this great nation," said Fox. "We're getting a truly great leader at a great time."
Smith looks forward to learning more about the Air National Guard and share his active duty experience with the Montana Air Guard unit.
"My big thing will be to instill what I know about the C-130 mission, and then help build that heritage and that culture here," said Smith. "The 120th is an outstanding unit, they've done some great things in the past with other platforms and they're still learning about the C-130, so it's my hope I can share what I know and my knowledge and love for the 130 with the Airmen here."
Hronek and his wife Traci will be moving to Helena, Mont. where he will serve as the Vice Chief of Joint Staff of the Montana National Guard at the Joint Forces Headquarters at Fort Harrison.