114th Fighter Wing change of command
By 2nd Lt. Jessica Bak and Tech. Sgt. Abbey Rotter, 114th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 03, 2016
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Col. Russ A. Walz, 114th Fighter Wing commander, relinquished command of the 114th Fighter Wing to Col. Nathan B. Alholinna, 114th Fighter Wing vice commander during a change of command ceremony held at Joe Foss Field May 1, 2016. Col. Walz will move to Joint Force Headquarters in Rapid City as the Director of the Joint Staff and Air National Guard Chief of Staff. Col. Gregory Lair will replace Col. Nathan Alholinna as the Wing's vice commander.
For 10 years, Col. Russ A. Walz led the men and women of the 114th Fighter Wing through multiple changes and challenges to include the conversion to Block 40 F-16s and standing up and supporting two aerospace control alert sites.
With these changes and challenges, Walz leaves a 10 year legacy as the commander of the 114th Fighter Wing. Col Walz is the second longest reigning wing commander. While the 114th Fighter Wing was under his command, they deployed to 17 different countries in support four different contingencies: Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Inherent Resolve. Over 2,000 members deployed throughout this time period.
"Our airmen have a lot to be proud of," said Walz. "As I look back on the last 10 years, I'm filled with enormous pride."
The 114th Fighter Wing has received numerous awards while under the command of Walz: Air Force Outstanding Unit Award sixth oak leave cluster; National Guard Association of the United States' (NGAUS) Spaatz Trophy; National Guard Association of the United States' (NGAUS) Distinguished Flying Unit Plaque; National Guard Bureau's (NGB) Winston P. Wilson Trophy; Air Force Association's (AFA) Outstanding Air National Guard Flying Unit Award; Air National Guard Major General John J. Pesch Safety Award; and the Air National Guard William W. Spruance Safety Award.
"Our Airmen are the best of the best," stated Walz.
In 2014, the 114th Fighter Wing also received the first Highly Effective rating awarded by the Air Combat Command for a Unit Effectiveness Inspection.
Amidst all of the changes, Col. Walz sees the mission of the Air National Guard as something that has remained constant. Over the past ten years, the Air National Guard and the 114th Fighter Wing have maintained the mission for securing the home front.
"The mission of the national guard has not changed at all. Our primary mission is to secure the home front."
Under Col. Walz's leadership, the Wing has been involved in natural disaster response such as the Delmont tornado, the historical Missouri River flood relief, and blizzard and tornado relief.
While excited about the new opportunities that lie ahead, he will miss seeing his 114th Fighter Wing family on a daily basis.
"For 35 years, I've been driving through the gate and getting the opportunity to work with amazing professionals working toward a common goal. It is an organization of family and friends that is certainly something that I hope never changes," said Walz.