MUÑIZ AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Puerto Rico --
It’s been a little over three months since Col. Pete Boone assumed command responsibilities for the 156th Wing during a ceremony at Muñiz Air National Guard Base Aug. 25, 2019, in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Since then, there has been a significant change of pace at the 156th Wing, a unit that prides itself on their resilience and warrior spirit. For the past two years, the unit has been recovering from the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the tragic WC-130 crash and loss of nine fellow Airmen of the RICAN 68 crew. Today, the men and women of the 156th Wing are setting their sights on a new future as they undertake the monumental task of converting from an airlift unit to their two newly assigned combat communications and contingency response missions.
Just recently, we had the opportunity to spend some time with Col. Boone so he could share a little of himself and his plans to lead and make the PRANG’s 156th Wing the nation’s premier bilingual defense force and bridge to the Americas.
Col. Boone is no stranger to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. From 2005-2008, he worked with the 156th Airlift Wing C-130 crews supporting the U.S. Southern Command's CORONET OAK mission. During 2012-2013, he served as the CORONET OAK mission commander for 156AW crews. During his last assignment as the Georgia Air National Guard-165th Airlift Wing's vice commander and air commander. Col. Boone also served as the military on-scene commander responding to the tragic RICAN68 WC-130 aircraft crash in Savannah, Georgia.
Who is Col. Pete Boone?
“I would describe myself as someone who likes to enjoy life. I work hard but also like to play hard. I give 110 percent every day and like to relax and enjoy my family when I come home at night. I try to hold myself to the highest of standards and strive to live my life by the Air Force Core Values.”
How did your earlier years in the Air National Guard influence your career and the path which has led you to be the Commander of the 156th Wing?
“I would say the mix of operational flying as a C-130 navigator and serving at the National Guard Bureau in numerous capacities crafted me into a well-rounded, diverse Airman. My once-in-a-lifetime deployments to Antarctica and Greenland, coupled with my staff experience in operational, legislative, and programming have given me a unique perspective on the Air Force as a whole.”
What made you consider becoming the commander of the 156th Wing, PRANG?
“It’s simple. I think I can make a difference as a leader in the PRANG based upon my ability to build relationships and earn trust from the members of the 156th Wing.”
You have fulfilled a long and extensive career in the Air Force and Air National Guard, mostly in aviation as a C-130 navigator. Now you are responsible for leading the conversation of the 156thWing with two primary missions of Combat Communications and Contingency Response.
What motivates or drives you to take on this new mandate?
“Even though we don’t have a flying mission, our two new mission sets are cutting edge, high demand missions that are perfect for the Airmen of the 156th.”
Once the conversion is finalized where do you see the 156th Wing as it pertains to being a ready, relevant and responsive organization in support of its state and federal missions and the Strategic National Defense framework?
“You can’t find two missions better suited for the PRANG. Both combat communications and CRG are ideal mission sets to support both domestic and federal requirements. We are already building relationships with USSOUTHCOM and Joint Interagency Task Force - South to showcase our Airmen and our future capabilities.”
Where do you go to for inspiration, mentorship and leadership guidance?
“I’ve read several leadership books over the years to help me become a better leader. Most recently, I’ve read “Good to Great” which talks about putting the right people in the right seats on the bus. I’ve been trying to implement this strategy by ensuring we have the right Airmen in the right positions on the unit manning document. We need to ensure we are utilizing our Airmen in the most efficient, effective way based upon their unique skill-sets and talents.”
Could you describe your vision for the 156th Wing as well as your Command Philosophy?
“My vision for the 156th is stamped right on the bottom of our wing slides. Trust. Accountability. Leadership. I plan to earn the trust of all members under my command. I plan to empower and hold commanders accountable. I plan to provide leadership by leading from the front and setting the example for others to follow.”
What are your primary short-term, mid-term and long-term goals for the 156th Wing?
Short-term – “Get back to basics and become a unit of compliance. Re-instill the Air Force Core Values into each member. Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do. If every member followed these simple values, we’d be among the best in PT currency, Individual Medical Readiness percent, and OPRs/EPRs overdue.
Mid-term – Refine our processes and model the way for others to follow.
Long-term – Become the unit that other units try to emulate. We WILL be the first unit that combatant commanders reach out to when they need help.”
What are the main areas of focus to achieve a successful conversion and being a professional Airmen representative of the values of a Puerto Rico Air National Guardsmen?
“Keeping in mind our short, mid and long term goals, if every member woke up each day and asked themselves the question, “how can I make the 156th better?” every day, we’d be the premier unit in the Air Force. Airmen should focus on taking care of themselves, ensuring they are doing everything they can to better themselves and better the unit.”
What advice do you have for your Airmen as it pertains to professional development, leadership and personal growth?
“Challenge yourself. Step outside your comfort zone. Never give a supervisor or commander a reason not to promote you or give you increased responsibility. Always be ready for whatever comes your way.”
What is your sense and importance of family as it pertains to the PRANG and the 156th Wing, and why is that important?
“In my mind, there are three priorities in every Airmen’s life. 1) You have to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself both physically and mentally, you’re no good to anyone…not your family and not your employer. 2) Family. You need to provide for and take care of your family. Go to your kid’s concert or ballgame. There are times when you’re going to have to miss these things because of a deployment or domestic response to a hurricane. Make sure that you take the time when able to support your family. 3) Work. Work will always be there. No one is going to be lying on their death bed wishing they worked more. Give me your all when you’re working, but make sure that you take care of yourself and your family in the process.”
Recently you made it a point to let everyone know what your favorite sports team was. Why was this important to you?
“Everyone knows I’m a Syracuse University basketball fan because I wanted to play a little game with my commanders. I wanted to make sure that my “message” made it down to the lowest ranking Airman in the organization. This wasn’t about my favorite sports team, it was about communicating my message.”
Why should the 156th Wing be the unit of choice for one who is considering the Air National Guard as a career?
Because we are bi-lingual warriors. There isn’t another unit like us in the entire ANG or USAF.
Is there anything else you would highlight about yourself, your leadership style or the future of the 156th Wing?
“Always do what’s right, even when no one is looking. Be the example for others to follow. Take pride in what you do and be the expert in your career field. Always strive to be the best version of YOU!”