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News | Feb. 7, 2023

Whiteman-based National Guard unit gets new commander for Guard’s only B-2 wing

By Maj. John Quin 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The National Guard’s only nuclear flying wing welcomed its new commander during a ceremony at Whiteman Air Force Base, Feb. 3, 2023.

Col. Jared P. Kennish assumed command of the 131st Bomb Wing from retiring Col. Matthew D. Calhoun during a ceremony at Hangar 52 on base.

“The 131st Bomb Wing is an exceptional unit filled with some of the finest Airmen in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Levon Cumpton, adjutant general of Missouri and the ceremony’s presiding officer. “The 131st Bomb Wing excels in its state and federal mission.”

As part of the National Guard, the nation’s only military force with a dual mission, the 131st is responsible both for supporting the federal government in times of war or national emergency and supporting the state of Missouri when called upon by the governor during times of emergency.

During Calhoun’s command, the 131st fulfilled both missions at the same time. On the federal side, the wing’s Airmen support full-spectrum B-2 Spirit stealth bomber operations during exercises and bomber task force missions to Portugal, Diego Garcia, Iceland and Australia. At home, the 131st helmed the state’s first Air Guard-led state emergency mission, which included more than 800 Airmen and Soldiers tasked with supporting the people of Missouri during the COVID-19 pandemic with everything from supporting food pantries to coordinating and running mass vaccination sites.

Kennish, who previously served as vice commander of the 131st, joined the wing in 2008 as one of its first B-2 pilots. He was instrumental in the wing’s transition from F-15 Eagle fighter jets, flown when the 131st was based in St. Louis, to the B-2 Spirit. In the 15 years since the transition, the relationship between the active duty 509th Bomb Wing and the Guard’s 131st has become a model of a classic unit association.

The Wing’s Airmen must stand ready, every day, to support their state and federal mission, Kennish said.

“Should we get the call, we don’t have the luxury of spinning up to get ready. The one thing I will ask of all of you is to never take our mission or past successes for granted.”

Kennish was commissioned in 1998 and is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours in the B-2, B-1, T-38 and T-37. In previous assignments, he served as a B-2 instructor pilot, and has commanded at the squadron and group levels.

The 131st Bomb Wing is one of the oldest units in the Air National Guard, celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023. Unit members have served around the world, distinguishing themselves in a number of combat and support operations. Currently based at Whiteman Air Force Base with units at Jefferson Barracks outside St. Louis, the 131st is the only National Guard wing to fly the B-2 and works seamlessly with the active duty 509th.

Calhoun, who commanded the 131st since July 2020, is a command pilot with more than 3,500 hours including 250 combat hours. Following the change of command ceremony, Calhoun retired from the Air National Guard after almost three decades in uniform.

During his remarks, Calhoun praised the Citizen-Airmen who make up the wing.

“There are lawyers, surgeons, engineers, IT, farmers, bankers, college students and many, many more,” he said. “That’s the essence of service. Our country needs more of you, and I’m privileged to have served with you.”