Commentary Search

Col. Galbert discusses first 150 days on station

  • Published
  • By Staff Reports
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs team sat down with 90th Missile Wing Commander Col. Johnny Galbert recently to discuss his time in the commander's seat, what he likes about the wing and the area, and where he'd like to see the Mighty Ninety go toward in the future. Here are the Q&A:

Question 1:

What have you enjoyed about F.E. Warren after coming back here? What improvements would you like to make?

Col. Galbert:

I've really enjoyed getting back to the mission, being around professional Airmen doing a critical mission, having that close sense of camaraderie where we might not get the press deserved for what we do here, but it's critically important. 

The winters are rough, and it's a tough mission. So, just being back around the airmen who kind of embrace that.  I think that's what I've been impressed with – how we go about doing the job each and every day in a professional manner. 

Also, I’ve been impressed with how much we take care of our airmen and their families. Not to say we didn't do it in the past, but not to this level, I can honestly say that everything that I do, everything that the group commanders do, was and is to take care of Airmen and their families, everything we do is for them.

I think as far as improvements, a lot of things that I would say Airmen don't get to see is the base infrastructure. They can see the dorms, but they may not know that our infrastructure is lagging or that it's old, and we’re bringing on a new weapon system, so we need to upgrade that infrastructure. Whether it’s the gates, a facility, or other kind of infrastructure or network, we're doing that. And it's not the easiest because resources are limited. But I'd like to continue to get the resources we need for military construction for infrastructure here to pave the way for modernization. Quality of Life initiatives like the Shoppette – it looks amazing. 

Next on my list, AAFES is planning to do some work to the actual gas stations and the pumps and make it look like a commercial gas station downtown. The BX is also on my radar. I've been talking to AAFES about how we haven't had an update since, I believe, 1983. 

We’re the world's most trusted and dominant ICBM wing and our folks deserve a BX they can be proud of. And then of course, I mentioned MILCON and infrastructure and dorms, even the Blue Federal Credit Union. I've been talking to those folks, and they’ve mentioned “hey, let's get some paint, let's do some landscaping.” We can get after things. 

The last thing I'd probably say I’d like to improve is – and I think COVID kind of did this – people are just disconnected. So, I’m trying to get people at First Fridays, trying to come out to the club, putting people in for awards, recognizing our folks as often as we can, doing all those things. I need to be able to hire people and get them on the base. I need to have enough teachers at the CDC and have enough people at the Youth Center. And so, I think that's all a part of opening up the base and getting people on the base, letting them know we're here and we appreciate their support, and we’d like even more support through people working on base.


Question 2:

What is your impression of the local community? What are we doing to try and improve their ability to come see us?

Col. Galbert:

Everywhere I go, I talk about opening the base and inviting people. Whether it’s a small gathering or it’s like recently when we did Adopt an Airman family visit, where we brought them on base, gave them a mission brief and tour, or every Military Affairs Committee luncheon, Chamber luncheon or Rotary luncheon that I go to. I'm pushing them to come onto our base and see our outstanding Airmen and highlight our mission. Even if I'm at the barbershop downtown talking to those guys, I'm always pushing F.E. Warren.

I think we've made a lot of progress since last summer, when we had a bunch of struggles. We still have things that go on that are what I consider to be isolated incidents, but these types of things happen in every community, unfortunately. For the large part of my time here, the community has been outstanding -  from the mayor, the governor, the chamber president, the civic leaders and the Braver Angels group. I was just doing a “Better Together” working meeting with them the other day, and folks are looking for ways to help. They hear our struggles and our challenges, and they come to me with, “Hey, how can we help?” There are great people here in this community, and I want people to know that. I've been very pleased and very blessed to have huge supporters outside the gate who will bend over backwards for the base and our Airmen.


Question 3:

In what ways do you see the 90th moving into the future? 

Col. Galbert:

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is for me to jump to Sentinel, but I'm gonna hold off on that. To answer the question about jumping into the future, I would say that Minuteman III is still our future. We’ve got to sustain MMIII for probably another 10 years. Many of those wearing the uniform would just love to stop worrying about MMIII parts and sustainment and supply chains and a lot of visitors that we get here on base want to talk about Sentinel. Ten years is a long time and we’ve got missiles online now that have to remain on alert, so MMIII is still in our future as well. I have to stay focused on that and recognize that I am a MMIII Wing Commander. 

So how do I get us there from here to sustain the weapon system for another seven to 10 years, and at the same time prepare for transition to Sentinel? It could be something as simple as a Gate 3 project or for all the trucks to come through gate five, where we need an X-ray backscatter machine. And what about infrastructure? When they bring the integrated command center and the cyber facilities, the question becomes whether we have that infrastructure in place, and much of that has to happen now. Our most important job is being able to strike if called upon and that’s what we’ve gotta keep people focused on - being able to do the job day in and day out and be ready in a moment's notice if the President sends the order.


Question 4:

What do you think Airmen can do to help improve the base?

Col. Galbert:

Everybody has a role to play. Every one of us has to do their part, whether it's just picking up a piece of trash over in the dorms or leading a mission brief or project. When we have distinguished visitors come on the base, the first thing they can do is to know their job inside and out and be the best operator, maintainer, defender, weather personnel, Force Support Airman or whatever it is you do. Put in the work to be the best you can possibly be. 

I've been talking to a lot of groups and a lot of different demographics about this. This is the profession of arms. It isn’t Walmart or Target, we're in the military. There's some expectations and a higher standard, whether you're on base and on duty, or if you're off base in the community, walking your dog in Lions Park. I just want our young people to recognize that and carry themselves in a way that people would be proud of, that mom and dad would be proud of, and that their hometown would be proud of. 

Like I said earlier, COVID set us back a little bit. And so people said and felt things like, “Hey, we don’t want to connect, 7:30 to 4:30 and I’m out of here.” I wonder how our nation can expect us to do the things that we’re going to be asked to do in the next several years if we don't have that connectedness. We have to be able to get together and go to Airman Leadership School graduations, dress up and go to induction ceremonies or the Air Force Ball, or swing by the club and talk to commanders where they can let their hair down and you can get to know them. I think that's what Airmen can do. Don't just be content with doing your job. This is a way of life, or at least it is for me. I'm Air Force through and through. I know our Airmen don’t come into the AF 100% committed to “big blue”, so supervisors have a big job to do, and they have to be willing to pour into them and encourage them to get out and experience the heritage and tradition that the AF has to offer; so that when they become frontline supervisors, they can say, “this is my Air Force.”


Question 5:

Have you noticed any differences between up at Minot AFB where those cold months are very long, and down here?

Col Galbert:

I like to joke around and say F.E. Warren AFB is a Southern Tier missile base, because we're down south from the other two missile wings. I spent the last two years at Minot and it’s my third time here. I’ve gone TDY to Malmstrom a few times, but never been stationed there, but I can imagine what it’s like there. Sometimes you do have a lot of connectedness just because of the mission, the job and the location. It's freezing cold, and if you're in Minot then you’re 13 miles north of the town, so we're all we’ve got. If there's no event on base, or nowhere to eat on base, we're probably not going to make it off base because it’s snowing. I will say that with F.E. Warren though, because we're close to Fort Collins, and Denver, we're probably not as connected as the other two - at least in my experience. At Minot on the weekends, you're just hoping your phone rings and somebody tells you, “Hey, we're having to a get together, we're doing a fire pit,” and you're like, “Yes, I got something to do!” Here, you can just be gone. I know people who leave every weekend to go camping or go to Denver or Fort Collins. Then the city's right here too and we're all doing our own thing. You have to work a little bit harder here at F.E. Warren to get that connectedness, but it can be done. 

You create the environment and the culture where people want to be around their base community. When you live on base it’s easier, with a built-in school and a sense of safety, security and comfort. If you live all the way down Dell Range in the east part of town, you may think, “Hey, I'm out.” So, unless your supervisor or your commander says, “Hey, come to the club and you’ll get to know people beyond work and build that trust in their relationship.” 

Then they can start to think, “Well, what's going on, on base?” and then it may start to be their first or second option, rather than be option number nine.


Question 6:

What's changed since your time as the 321st Missile Squadron commander? How do you think you've changed?

Col. Galbert:

I don't think much has changed, as it’s the same mission. We're all built a certain way, operators are still kind of operators, defenders are defenders, maintainers still want to turn wrenches. I think maybe things have changed in that sense where people are more into the devices. Technology's changing, so the way they receive information is changing. Then they want to do different things, like maybe video games and be online rather than hang out. 

I don't know if that much else has changed here at F.E. Warren. I still know a lot of people who were here before, they still have positions. We’re still advocating for the base, and CFD is still CFD. There’s a lot of things we're working on with the base and the community. The community wants to grow, so we're working on things like annexation, concurrent jurisdiction, and enhanced use lease options. There’s a Microsoft building over there now and the city and the county have some plans to try to grow. Not just community engagement, but formal engagement that big Air Force has to weigh in on and see what the future of the base is going to be like. 

To answer the second part of your question, how I’ve changed, I don't think I’ve changed very much. Sure I've grown up and I learned quite a bit as a deputy at Minot about how to run a wing. I'm still here because I love my Airmen. I want to make sure they have good leadership, because I didn't always have good leadership. I survived some bad leaders, but I actually learned a lot from those leaders about how NOT to treat people. I thought to myself, “I'm never gonna treat somebody like that.” So just to be in a position to be able to take care of our airmen and their families has always been a priority of mine. That's always been my focus, even when I was away from here. I knew when I came back, this is what my spouse and I are in it for - to do this kind of stuff. Maybe I got a little bit more gray in my hair, but this position is different, because I heard a long time ago, the higher you go, the less fun it is. Sometimes it can feel like management. Squadron commander was an amazing job and I had a blast, because you're right there in it. You're doing the baby blankets, you see your people everyday, you get to know their families, you're working issues together.

As a wing commander, there’s not a lot of time. I sometimes lament the fact that I don't get to see the airmen as often and spend as much time with them and I hate when I see people and I'm like, “Hey, I'm Colonel Galbert,” and they go, “I met you already, sir.” I just don't have enough touchpoints to remember everyone, so it’s frustrating sometimes for me. However, it’s fun to be in a position where I can make an impact, though.


Question 8:

What is the main thing that you would like your airmen to know right now?

Col. Galbert:

That they matter. They are incredibly important. What they do is very important. As I stated earlier, It's a tough mission, and I get that. When I talk to FTAC, I always kind of joke around with them and say, “Hey, you know what I was doing when I was your age? I was living in a frat house, hanging out, partying, having a good time. It was the best time of my life. There was no social media. I was in college making mistake after mistake. Nobody was putting my mistakes it on Facebook or Instagram for the public to see. But that's the world we live in today.”

Nobody asked me to secure or maintain a nuclear weapon or even be responsible when I was their age. But we ask our Airmen to do that each and every day and for a lot of them, they are still trying to simply figure out life. You’re incredibly important. You and your families. This mission does not happen without you. That’s what I would like to tell them.