New ASOS commander focuses on 'center of excellence'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Justin Creech
  • 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 146th Air Support Operations Squadron welcomed a new commander during a ceremony here, Aug. 2.

Maj. Christopher D. Gries assumed command from Lt. Col. James B. Waltermire after serving the last two years as the squadron's director of operations. He said he intends to continue the vision that his predecessors have put in place.

"Making this the center of excellence for all joint terminal attack controllers is our goal," said Gries. "We are in one of the best locations in the US to provide high quality training to Joint-Terminal Attack Controllers and build young Airmen into warriors. So, we want to keep maximizing our potential to do that."

Gries assumes command with 22 years of service, including specific experience in the JTAC career field. Gries enlisted as a JTAC in 1993 and worked as an operations superintendent, JTAC instructor, and an evaluator before commissioning in 2002. He feels his experience allows him to better focus his efforts on the training the squadron needs to continue to be successful, he said.

"I understand the mission of ASOS and what a Tactical Air Control Party Specialist is," said Gries. "I used to manage two other ASOS squadrons within the National Guard. So, I know what I need to focus on."

Providing a variety of training exercises is one way Gries said the squadron can continue to push to achieve their goal of excellence. Instead of working with just Air Force personnel and equipment to improve their air strike and communication ability, Gries said it's important that the 146 ASOS JTAC's are familiar with how aviators from other military branches operate in combat situations.

"A lot of ASOS squadrons focus on their core skillset of dropping bombs and talking on the radio," said Gries. "What we focus on is the breadth of the experience. So, instead of just going out with an F-16 unit, we'll go out with B-52s and learn how to operate with those guys. Plus, we'll go with F-18s and understand how the Marine Corps operates. It creates a good foundation. So no matter what situation these guys are put into, they're going to understand how to operate at a high level."

Waltermire leaves the ASOS after two and a half years in command and retires from the Air Force after 28 years of service. He said he is proud that he accomplished the goals he set for himself as the ASOS commander, but also acknowledged how the hard work of the squadron members and the support of his family allowed him to be so successful.

"My family gave me the time to be the commander," said Waltermire. "The members of our squadron did the rest. They took my vision and ran with it. I was just along for the ride."

Waltermire summed up his near three decade career by commenting on his deployment with ASOS during Operation Enduring Freedom.

"I thought I was in the twilight of my career, and I finally got to go to combat after I came here," said Waltermire. "I always wondered if I had what it takes. I think I was worthy."