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Ponder Relinquishes Command, Heads Back to Washington

  • Published
  • By Mastter Sgt. Stephen Wilkins
  • 145th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Russell Ponder has done a lot for this base in a very short period. When he arrived to take command of the 145th Civil Engineering Squadron in February of 2009 he knew about the concentrated demands. On loan from active duty Air Force in a program that provides executive AF types an opportunity to get their feet wet in command situations, it had been a long time since he'd been "in the field." But he was anxious to get started.

After 21 months, with Ponder stepping down from the position Col. Clarence Ervin thanked him for his flexibility and expert management of $14.7 million in construction upgrades on and around the 145th Airlift Wing, concluding with the comment, "blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape." North Carolina Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Gen. Iwan Clontz recalled that "we welcomed Russ with MOPP 4," before adding his gratitude for undaunted performance in exceeding expectations.

And, thanking him for his leadership, Lt. Col. Gregory Walters said Ponder gave the unit a lesson they would take forward; that they could exceed expectations.

It is a lesson Walters, as new commander will help the unit continue. He has an advantage, though. He is internally bred. Walters began his career in this unit. "It feels like family," he said. "I know and have seen first-hand both the winnings and failings of the 145 CES." Walters remembers some of the most important leadership lessons came from ""my Chief," CMSgt Joe J. Dunn. He tempered me from attacking everything at once, to doing the right things right and ensuring all the jobs get done, not just started and left half-way.

But Walters is certain he is ready to do things right and take the unit to the next level, and he has a plan. "I believe instead of focusing on a few large-ticket items we can enhance a broader spectrum of issues. We will look to steadily improve facility conditions across the base, reduce our energy footprint and get back to ensuring full-time and traditional guardsmen have a good, quality environment to accomplish the Wing's missions."

Aware he will have to leave the position for another at some point in the future, Walters said, "when I leave, I'll be happy that the unit has scored its successes for themselves and the Wing; and that they have the processes and leadership in place that I'm not even missed when I'm gone.