Fox retires from Montana Air National Guard after nearly 42 years; Hronek assumes command
For the first time in 70 years, a member of Brig. Gen. Bryan Fox’s family is not in the Montana Air National Guard.
Fox relinquished command during a Saturday morning ceremony as assistant adjutant general of the Montana National Guard and commander of the Montana Air National Guard.
Gov. Steve Bullock presided over the ceremony and said to Fox, “you’ve left a lasting impact.”
Fox’s retirement ceremony was also Saturday and he’s retiring after 41 years, 7 months and 17 days of service in the Montana Air National Guard.
His uncle was one of the original members of the unit 70 years ago and his father served in the unit for 40 years.
“I will miss the daily sense of purpose,” Fox said during the ceremony. “It’s going to be hard to hang up this uniform.”
Looking at the U.S. flag during an interview following the ceremony, Fox said, “when you take an oath to that, that’s blood. To me there’s no higher calling.”
To the airmen, Fox said that whether at home station, around the state or abroad, “you exceeded all expectations. It’s been an honor to serve with you.”
Fox enlisted into the 120th Fighter Interceptor Group in 1976 and served as a crew chief on a T-33 Shooting Star, F-106 Delta Dart and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Fox earned his commission at the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science in 1989. He served as a flight commander, squadron commander, joint staff deputy director, vice chief of the joint staff and chief of staff. He has served as assistant adjutant general – air since May 2014.
After 40 years without a full summer off, Fox and his wife are planning to spend the summer around Montana. In the fall, they’re headed to Europe for a year. Fox’s son is in the Air Force and currently stationed in Germany so they’re planning to spend time there and visit countries like Greece in the winter months and Scandinavian countries in the summer months.
He’s been to 23 countries while serving in the Guard but said he’s looking forward to more leisurely visits.
Fox said that when he joined, the draft was ending and the military was shifting to an all-volunteer force. At that time, Fox said, there was a lot of speculation over whether the nation could sustain an all-volunteer force. So far, it has.
The next major change over Fox’s career was adding women to the ranks. He said early on women were primarily in the medical fields, but are now in most job types throughout the Air Force.
And over all that time, the change in technology has been remarkable. When he started, everything was done by paper, sticky notes and landline calls. Now its email, text and cell phones.
Reflecting on his nearly half century of service, Fox said, “it’s been a little bit of heaven.”
The man taking his place is no stranger to Montana’s Air Guard component or the 120th Airlift Wing.
Brig. Gen. Pete Hronek served as wing commander at the 120th for six years and led the wing through two major aircraft conversions, from the F-16C Fighting Falcon to the F-15C Eagle and then to the C-130H Hercules currently flown.
Since leaving the 120th, Hronek worked at the joint headquarters in Helena and served as vice chief of staff and chief of staff of the Montana Air National Guard.
He’s currently dual hatted as he’s also working at the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Hronek said it was great to be back in Montana for the weekend, but is headed back to D.C. this week. His NGB assignment is slated for six months but could be extended.
“I am truly honored and humbled,” Hronek said of being selected for the No. 2 position at the Montana National Guard.
Hronek said he misses his time at the wing level, but that experience has helped him as he works at the strategic level both at the Montana National Guard headquarters and the National Guard Bureau in D.C.
Service to community and county is important to Hronek and his family. Three of his five children are Guard members. Another is a police officer in Great Falls and the fifth joined the Peace Corps.
On the horizon for the Air Guard, Hronek said, is modernization of the C-130H fleet. The platform is expected to be in service through 2040 and avionics upgrades and engine improvements are on the way.
Hronek was commissioned in 1985 at the ANG Academy of Military Science in 1985 and began his service as a fighter pilot with the 120th Fighter Interceptor Group. He has served three tours in Southeast Asia and has more than 4,000 flight hours in the T-37, T-38, F-106, F-16 ADF, F-16C, F-15C and C-130H.