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Colonel Smith leaving the Montana Air National Guard on Saturday

Posted at 12:37 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2018-08-29 19:24:50-04

This weekend, Colonel Lee Smith will be saying goodbye to the Montana Air National Guard as he hands over the reins to the next commander.

For the past 25 years, Smith has been serving his country through the Air Force.

"Coming in as an active duty C-130 pilot to a historical fighter guard unit was little daunting in itself," Smith said.

Smith was the first dual commotion, where he had a concentrate guard and active duty commotion.

"What I did was very unique coming from the active duty into a guard unit for a two year tour. To than go back to active duty without a break in service. That actually required an act of congress and Security of Defense approval," Smith said. 

Smith says he has flown the C-130 most of his career.

When he took over command of MANG, they were in the process of convening from the f-16 to the C-130.

"It has been a very challenging conversation. I mean 55 percent of the wing cross trained into a new job. At the same time they had to continue doing there old jobs that they use to," Smith said.

After Montana Air National Guard completed a successful convention process, the airman set out for there first deployment.

"The outstanding performance of our airman day in and day out what they do is going to secure the future of this mission," Smith said.

Smith is hoping that Montana will be a world class training opportunity for C-130 units through out the United States.

"There is a lot of projects we have going on. The landing zone at Malmstrom Air Force Base, we hope to have that done by the end of summer. There is another drop zone we are in the process of developing to give us full capability up in Fort Benton. And of course our landing zone here on the air field," Smith said. 

And as Smith moves onto his next assignment, he will miss the people and the friendships he had made over the last two years.

"I hope the people of Montana will realize just how talented there airman are and what an amazing unit this is," Smith said. 

On Saturday, Colonel Buel Dickson will accept command of the 120th Airlift Wing from Colonel Smith in a traditional military change of command ceremony presided over by the commander of the Montana Air National Guard, Brigadier General Bryan Fox.