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St. Joseph native to take command of 139th Airlift Wing

U.S. Air Force Col. Ralph Schwader, vice commander of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing, will assume command of the Wing in January 2014.

U.S. Air Force Col. Ralph Schwader, vice commander of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing, will assume command of the Wing in January 2014.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, announced today Col. Ralph L. Schwader will assume command of the St. Joseph-based 139th Airlift Wing in January.

A change of command ceremony for Schwader and outgoing commander, Col. Michael Pankau, is scheduled for January, Danner said.

"I'm very pleased to have an officer with Col. Schwader's proven track record of character and experience at the helm of the 139th," Danner said. "He will build on the great work done by his predecessor and fellow Veteran, Col. Michael Pankau."

Schwader, an experienced C-130 pilot who has flown 6,277 flight hours, said he is ready to take command.

"I am very honored to be selected by Maj. Gen. Danner as the next wing commander of the 139th Airlift Wing," Schwader said. "Col. Mike Pankau has done an outstanding job leading this organization over the past three years during some significant challenges that included numerous combat deployments of 139th personnel. He leaves the wing secure on a great path for the future. I am very proud to be part of the 139th Airlift Wing and look forward to leading this team of combat-tested men and women veterans into the future."

Pankau, the current wing commander, said the wing will continue to flourish under Schwader's leadership.

"With the leadership team in place at the wing coupled with the best community support enjoyed by any military organization, I believe future mission expansion is guaranteed," Pankau said.

Danner called Schwader a "seasoned Veteran," citing his experiences supporting combat operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Schwader served as a deployed commander for the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He later served as deputy operations group commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, which was responsible for eight squadrons and one flight.

Schwader has also support operations and exercises including Volant Oak, Coronet Oak, Southern Watch, Provide Hope, Provide Comfort, Joint Forge, Uphold Democracy and Noble Eagle.

Schwader's history with the Missouri Air National Guard and the St. Joseph community spans a lifetime. He is a 1986 graduate of Missouri Western University, and received his commission through the Air National Guard in 1987. After attending pilot training, Schwader got his first assignment with the 139th Airlift Wing in 1990.

Since then, Schwader has served in a number of capacities including aircraft commander, chief of standardization/evaluation, director of operations for the 180th Airlift Squadron, commander of the 180th Airlift Squadron, commander of the 139th Operations Group and, most recently, vice commander of the 139th Airlift Wing.

Schwader has 324 combat flight hours and 175 combat support hours. Schwader is a highly-decorated officer whose military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal with two devices, the Air Medal with four devices, the Aerial Achievement Medal with two devices, the Air Force Commendation Medal with one device, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Air Force Combat Action Medal and the NATO Medal.

The St. Joseph native becomes the eleventh commander of the unit that traces its start to a small group of Airmen who fought World War II in the skies over Europe. Pankau said he is proud to have been a part of that history.

"Working with the best of the best, the men and women of the 139th Airlift Wing, has been a fantastic experience," Pankau said. "I wouldn't change one moment of the last three decades with this unit. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I am proud of my service and look forward to the next chapter of my life."

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