Texas Air Guard stands up new squadron at Goodfellow

  • Published
  • By 2Lt. Jon Meliferas
  • 17 TRW Public Affairs
15 August, 2008 marked a unique addition to the Goodfellow Air Force Base team and the official assumption of command for the 217th Training Squadron. The squadron is a Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) unit that will work directly alongside the 315 TRS, 316 TRS, and 17 TRSS, under the 17th Training Group. 217 TRS instructors will integrate into the existing courses taught within the 17 TRG - primarily the 315 TRS. Lieutenant Colonel James W. Marrs became the first commander of the newly formed 217th Training Squadron.
"I'd like to tell you the history of the 217 TRS," ceremonies narrator and 315 TRS instructor Captain Jed Snarr said, "but this is a new squadron. Today is D-Day for the 217 TRS." The squadron represents further implementation of the "Total Force" policy the Air Force has been building since the 1970's. It integrates active duty, Guard, and Reserve forces into one inextricable military and civil society force. Captain Snarr noted that over 30 new Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission conversions have been approved by the National Guard Bureau. A number of squadrons have already begun performing their missions and several conversion schedules have been accelerated to meet current operational requirements -- highlighting the Total Force team and the significance of ISR in today's fight in the Global War on Terrorism.
The Texas Air National Guard's unit guidon was presented by the 217th Training Squadron Superintendent - Chief Master Sergeant Tambunga. Lt Col Marrs accepted the guidon from Col Russell W. Malesky, Director of Staff at HQ TXANG - the senior full-time Air National Guard position in the state. Lt Col Marrs, speaking as the first commander of the 217 TRS, was thankful of the opportunity to serve the United States of America and the State of Texas. The commander showed great appreciation for the hospitality displayed by the West Texas community as well.

Lt Col Marrs' expansive background exhibits his experience and leadership. He commanded a strategic nuclear missile launch crew, developed and led a nuclear emergency response team, and served as senior nuclear biological-chemical (NBC) advisor to commanders of two forward operating locations during the Persian Gulf War. He has national and local level experience in developing and conducting combat readiness training and exercise programs. During recent conflicts Lt Col Mars served as a Senior Intelligence Officer - preparing commanders, aircrews, aero-medical teams, security forces, and other personnel to operate in hostile environments. While recently deployed to Southwest Asia, Lt Col Marrs served as director of the Theater Airlift Intelligence Cell, providing combat intelligence support to airlift and aero-medical evacuation operations for a region spanning from Central Asia to East Africa with no losses of aircraft or personnel to hostile action during the highest levels of both operational tempo and enemy anti-aircraft activities since the conflict began. He recently served in a Homeland Defense /Homeland Security role as the Senior Intelligence Officer for a joint Army/Air National Guard NBC terrorism enhanced response force serving FEMA Region III and the National Capital Region. And at his last duty location, he was a member of the county-level Local Emergency Planning Committee and Regional-level Antiterrorism Advisory Council associated with the Department of Justice.
Lt. Col. Marrs concluded the assumption ceremony with eight guiding principles for the 217th: Respect, Kindness, Humility, Selflessness, Forgiveness, Honesty, Patience, and Commitment. Additionally, the career intelligence Airman, Cold War veteran, and newly appointed commander, unveiled the smoky mantra of conducting business in the intelligence world and provided insightful leadership for his new squadron, "As quiet professionals we pledge to do the right thing when no one is watching," he said, "and we will always give our best."