Outgoing Malmstrom commander: it’s a privilege to wear the uniform

Col. Ron Allen will relinquish command of the 341st Missile Wing to Col. Jennifer Reeves during a Tuesday morning ceremony.

Allen assumed command in April 2016 and said it’s emotional as he’s preparing to leave Malmstrom for his third assignment in D.C., this time as the principal assistant deputy administrator for military application at the National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy.

Reeves is was serving as the commander of the 381st Training Group at Vandenberg
AFB in California.

On June 25, he’ll pin on the rank of brigadier general.

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“It’s been an amazing ride,” Allen told The Electric in an early Monday morning interview in his office as he was finishing packing.

It was emotional walking in to the headquarters building for the last time as commander on Monday, he said.

On Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Fred Stoss, 20th Air Force commander, F. E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, will host the change of command ceremony. The ceremony has been indoors due to rain.

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It’s just a small snapshot in time to be commander for two years at a base that has had a continuous nuclear alert mission since 1962.

“If you treat the mission with respect and treat each other with respect, things tend to go well,” Allen said. “No day here is routine. It’s mindful decisions every single day.”

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A number of changes have been implemented over the last few years to improve education, professional development and morale in the wake of a 2014 cheating and drug investigation among the missile crew officers.

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“It’s a completely different feeling walking onto a missile base now than it was 20 years ago,” Allen said.

The heaviness and fear of making mistakes is gone, he said.

“People understand where they fit,” he said. “They can believe in what they’re doing.”

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The education of why the nuclear mission is so important, “that’s been the game changer,” Allen said, so airmen feel valued in what they do.

“I do believe the airmen understand the importance of the mission. I do believe they understand the value of the mission. I do believe the base is headed in a positive direction.”

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He said he didn’t get to host ribbon cuttings on some major projects, but a number of projects are in motion, like a new dining hall, recreation center improvements, the new facilities for the Huey replacements, updated missile alert facilities and modernizing the missile weapon system.

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His time in Great Falls has been “an amazing experience” and he thanked the community for welcoming him and his family. “That’s something we’ll never forget,” Allen said.

The state helps feed the world through agriculture, helps power the world through the energy sector and airmen at Malmstrom help protect the world, Allen said.

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“It’s pretty special,” Allen said, to have that kind of global impact.

His parting advice to airmen is to be professional so they can continue to wear the uniform.

“It’s a privilege to wear this nation’s uniform,” Allen said.

When he started out as a young officer in the mid to late-1990s, Allen said he had no plans to make general.

“Through grace and mercy, some leaders saw some things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Allen said. “That completely changed my vector in life. I can’t thank them enough.”