New command chief for Montana Air National Guard is a traditional Guardsman; GFPD officer

Doug Otto is the new state command chief for the Montana Air National Guard.

The traditional Guardsman is also a lieutenant at the Great Falls Police Department.

Otto assumed the position in early May.

The command chief is the senior enlisted airman within a military component and Otto advises the commander of the Montana Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. Pete Hronek, on enlisted issues.

Otto and Hronek have worked together in the past since Hronek commanded the 120th Airlift Wing and Otto has been a member of the Montana Air Guard for 28 years.

“It’s one of those worlds where you develop relationships with the commanders,” Otto said.

Otto served five years on active duty in the Air Force, in security forces units. He ended up at Malmstrom Air Force Base serving on convoy teams when he left active duty and transferred to the Guard and joined the Great Falls Police Department.

He’d been with the security forces squadron at the 120th until 2012 and had served as the chief for that unit. He’s since been assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters in Helena.

In the new position, his focus is on making sure enlisted airmen are always ready to deploy as well as working with them on getting and using their education benefits.

“It’s making sure that we take care of the airmen so that they can do the job,” Otto said.

This year has been full of change for Otto. In January, he was promoted to lieutenant at GFPD and in May took on the new role at the Guard.

“I don’t think I’ll ever top this,” he said.

It was humbling to be selected for the top enlisted job in the Montana Air Guard, he said. At the 20 year mark of his career, he made master sergeant, then senior master sergeant, then his current rank of chief master sergeant.

“It’s all because of the great people you have around you who push you,” he said.

His family has been his biggest supporter, with his wife helping him prepare for his promotion tests and now his youngest child is working to join the Guard.

But he also credited officers he’d served with before, including retired Brig. Gen. Brad Livingston, former commander of the Montana Air National Guard.

Otto said Livingston was one of the officers who believed in developing enlisted leaders, which in turn makes for better officers and stronger units overall.

The Montana Air Guard is primarily composed of the 120th Airlift Wing and the 219th RED HORSE Squadron.

Most airmen in the Montana Guard are traditional and that means they report to Great Falls one weekend a month for drill and have longer training commitments throughout the year, but most have civilian jobs and live all over the state.

Some are like Otto and work in a similar career field in both their Guard and civilian jobs, but some work in different fields.

That gives the Guardsmen a depth and breadth of experience and skills that are useful in operations stateside and abroad, Otto said.

Originally from Clarkson, Nebraska, Otto said the experience serving in security forces for the military and civilian law enforcement have played hand-in-hand in his professional development.

“You learn how to work with people,” he said.

In his time at GFPD, he’s served as a field training officer, bike patrol, special projects officer, general case detective, and a sex and internet crimes detective. He also spent 16 years on the High Risk Unit, holding the position of sniper team leader. Otto is a firearms instructor, and a current and charter member of the GFPD Honor Guard.

Otto also serves his community and country with Montana Air National Guard (MANG). He has been with MANG for 23 years and currently holds the rank of Chief Master Sergeant assigned to the Joint Forces Headquarters at Fort Harrison.

The way he sees his new role is more of how he’s approached all his other positions.

Treat people with respect; don’t make things into science projects, or keep it simple; and take care of our traditional Guardsmen.

“This job is truly about people. It’s nothing more,” he said.