Recently, it was announced that we would be getting a new commander: Col. Darrin E. Slaten, who is a Command Pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours, 60 combat missions, and 78 saves in the HH-60G aircraft.

He was raised in Blue Springs, and is a 1986 graduate of Blue Springs High School. He is the son of longtime Blue Springs residents Billy and Judy Slaten (Judy is deceased; Billy still lives in the area.)

Colonel Slaten is the Principal Deputy Director of Air, Space and Information Operations for the Air National Guard. He is responsible for the operations, training, and deployment of 106,700 air guardsmen assigned to 90 wings and 579 mission support units across the 54 states and territories. He will officially assume command of the 176th Wing in a ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on March 3.

Colonel Slaten is a former 176th Wing member. He used to be a helicopter pilot for us, then worked his way up through the ranks to progressively higher positions. He then left Alaska to work a tour of duty at National Guard Bureau Headquarters, where he continued to build his reputation. So state National Guard leadership specifically asked him to come back and lead the 1,400-member 176th Wing.

Colonel Slaten served in the U.S. Army beginning in 1987, earning his commission in 1992. He completed pilot training and then proceeded to Budingen, FRG (Germany) where he was assigned as a Cavalry Scout Platoon Leader in the 1st Cavalry Squadron, 1st Armored Division. In 1995 he returned to Fort Rucker and earned Distinguished Graduate honors at the Army Aviation Officer Advanced Course. After qualifying in the UH-60 aircraft, he was assigned as the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Platoon Leader at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He was then reassigned to Fort Richardson, Alaska, and took command of the Headquarters Company, United States Army Garrison at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

In 1999, Colonel Slaten joined the Alaska Air National Guard serving as Flight Lead, Instructor/Evaluator Pilot, Senior Rescue Controller, Tactics Officer and Director of Operations of the 210th Rescue Squadron, Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska. In these roles he was responsible for the combat readiness of a helicopter rescue squadron conducting missions across the globe as well as the 24/7 rescue alert mission supporting the 11th AF Commander. While assigned to the rescue squadron, Colonel Slaten deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom.

In 2010, he was assigned to Joint Base Andrews serving as Personnel Recovery Functional Area Manager and Chief, Aviation Operations Branch, responsible for the doctrinal management and scheduling of all the aviation assets in the Air National Guard.

In 2014, he assumed command of the 176th Operations Group at JBER, Alaska, where he was responsible for the combat readiness of over 600 airmen. He was then assigned to the Joint Staff, J-33 where he served as the Department of Defense LNO to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.