From Great Falls High Graduate To Retired MANG Brigadier General
Brigadier General Bryan P. Fox (Retired) grew up in Great Falls and understands the importance of the Montana International Guard and Malmstrom Air Force Base. General Fox took some time to answer a few questions during a phone call about the military and here is the transcribed interview.
Early Life Of General Fox:
I grew up on the East end of Great Falls and as a child I watched the airplanes take off and land at Malmstrom. My father was also a lifelong member of the Montana Air Guard, so I took a liking to aviation. In 1976 I graduated from Great Falls High School and joined the Montana Air Guard and was a traditional Guardsman or part-time airman through 1979, at which time I was hired full-time as an aircraft mechanic, crew chief. I worked on the T-33, the F-106 and eventually the F-16. While working full-time, I also attended the College of Great Falls, which is now the University of Providence. I think Great Falls is very fortunate to have an installation of higher education because it really provides folks in Great Falls and central Montana an opportunity to continue on with their education. Having the college degree, I was fortunate enough to be commissioned an officer in 1989. As an officer, I held several assignments from executive officer to logistics plans, on to personnel to communications and aircraft maintenance. In 2007 I was assigned to Joint Force Headquarters located at Fort Harrison in Helena and sat in couple of different positions on the joint Army and Air staff. I retired in 2018 as the commander of the Montana Air National Guard with just shy of 42 years of military service.
Why Should A Young Person Look At The Guard:
I think it opens doors and gives you greater opportunities because of the different schooling, skill sets, and leadership training you'll obtain. Joining the military prepares you to take on more difficult challenges. In addition to obtaining a formal training certificate, You'll enhance your team building skills, you'll enhance your confidence, and you’ll enhance your physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing.
“I hate to use the word discriminator, but when you're applying for civilian jobs, you're going to be looked at, a little different, because you're going to bring some additional skill sets and training that other people who have not joined the guard or active-duty military may not have.” General Fox
Why Is The Military So Important To The United States:
From a national perspective, obviously the military is one element of our national security. From a state perspective, as a member of the National Guard, you are dual status, you can be activated for state emergencies by the governor or you can be activated for federal emergencies by the president. But the National Guard is critical to protecting both our nation and the state, especially when it comes to conflicts overseas or state emergencies such as natural disasters or civil unrest. Our military is vital to the security of our country and the people of Montana.
Difference Between Malmstrom Air Force Base And Montana Air National Guard:
First the primary missions are different. Malmstrom Air Force Base provides nuclear deterrence through intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and the Air Guard Wing provides tactical airlift with its C-130 aircraft. The other big difference, Airmen at Malmstrom are fulltime whereas the National Guard is primarily a part-time or traditional force, and the majority of these individuals work within the civilian community. Because of that, they bring a whole host of different skill sets when they do get activated. The last numbers I saw for the Air Guard, I believe it was 70% traditional or part-time and 30% full-time where again Malmstrom Air Force Base, they're primarily a hundred percent full-time.
Montana Air Guard Missions/ Objectives:
The Montana Air Guard is made up of three separate units with three different missions. The 219th REDHORSE Squadron is located at Malmstrom Air Force Base and provides heavy engineering operations anywhere in the world. They are generally first in and set up air bases for incoming forces. The 120th Airlift Wing is stationed at the Great Falls International Airport. With their C-130’s they perform tactical airlift and precision airdrops for troops, cargo, and equipment. The Wing also has a support mission made up of medical, communication, security forces, personnel, civil engineering, aircraft maintenance and supply units. And finally, located at Fort Harrison is a small contingent assigned to Joint Force Headquarters. They provide oversite for readiness, policies, and mission execution. The Air Guard’s primary objective hasn’t changed much over the years. Simply said: Provide mission ready forces anytime, anywhere!
What Does The Military Do For The Great Falls Area:
Besides the economic value both Malmstrom and the Air Guard bring, I think sometimes it's hard to put a dollar amount on all the off-duty time the Airmen from both organizations spend volunteering on numerous projects throughout Great Falls and communities within Montana. Also, I've always been amazed at how high the Air Guard retention rate is. It's always been 90+% where once somebody signs up to the organization, they just want to serve or participate in it for the minimum 20 years at which time they qualify for retirement. The skills that they bring and the work ethic that they bring and the value that they bring to our country, our communities, and the state of Montana, I sometimes don't think you can actually measure that. I saw that firsthand throughout my career. I deployed, I don't know how many times, but to 13 different countries overseas and then was activated at least six times on state active duty. When you see what these traditional guardsmen who serve one weekend a month and two weeks throughout the year, what they do and how much value, good things, and security they bring to the state and to our nation, it's just a real joy to watch and makes you proud.
If You Were To Do It Again, Would You Start In The Part Time Or Full Time Guard:
I'd start out part-time. Again, 70% of the force is part-time and they are the most important element. The full-time force is there to prepare for the weekend training or the one weekend a month, but the catalysts or the core of the organization is the traditional guardsman. That’s because they come from all segments of society and across a smorgasbord of career fields from firemen to doctors, plumbers, IT specialist, accountants, it's just the whole spectrum. When you leverage their civilian skills with their military job, it's just amazing to watch. Back to that traditional guardsman. I think that comes down to individuals who desire to serve or do something meaningful. The Guard really is a part-time force and being part-time is great! Part of the reason they like it is they can garner knowledge, skills, and education which they can apply to or enhance their civilian job without incurring additional personal cost. The other thing, in addition to getting a break from their civilian jobs, they get a chance to travel throughout the U.S. and overseas and experience different cultures and meet new people. All in all, it’s a win-win for we get to leverage the skills and experiences they have from their civilian job. But in the end, it’s all about being part of something bigger than yourself and an opportunity to also serve your country.
United States Military Is A Voluntary Force:
What's really fascinating to me is the fact that our country's still using an all-volunteer force. I have a quote that I used to use.
“If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap. If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing. If you want to be happy for a month, get married. If you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery, but if you want to be happy for a lifetime, volunteer for something that adds value to America.” Author Unknown
That's what our military is made up of today. Everyone that's serving in our military today volunteered to do it. To me that really says something about those individuals, and to me that is one of the highest callings there is.
What Are You Doing Now:
Believe it or not, I've been retired for five years and up until the pandemic my spouse and I lived half the year in Europe and the other half here in Montana. The summers are some of the best times of the year to be in Montana, and living in Europe was a great way to decompress. Presently, I'm doing a lot of volunteer work. Currently I sit on four not-for-profit boards and work to help those organizations continue to be successful.
Thank You General Fox for your service!
If you have a story idea or something you want to learn more about, give Randy a call at 406-788-3003 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org