Col. Michael Walters and his family arrived at Minot Air Force Base in the midst of a COVID 19 Pandemic. The entire group that gathered for the change of command wore masks and chairs were social distanced. By contrast, Col. Walters handed off the guidon for the 5th Bomb Wing to Col. Daniel Hoadley with a much larger audience, years after the height of COVID.
At our first interview late in the summer of 2020, Col. Walters shared that he, and his family, had chosen Minot because “it’s hard.” Our conversation would continue with an explanation. Minot is hard for the obvious reason: the weather. People from more temperate climates do not acclimate well to the below zero temperatures. But Col. Walters explained that it was more than that which makes Minot “hard.” It was the percentage of first term Airmen that arrive in Minot, many of whom live in the dorms on base, a fair distance from downtown Minot and the activities the community offers. But in Col. Walters’ eyes, it is working through those issues that molds those Airmen for performing the mission at Minot Air Force Base.
At the end of his two-year journey, Col. Walters has mixed emotions on the eve of his last day as Commander of the 5th Bomb Wing. “The mission is challenging, and very all consuming,” says Walters.
Col. Walters set a high standard for not only himself, but for the Airmen at Minot Air Force Base because he wanted them to “experience being varsity. I wanted them to appreciate the value of hard work and see the product of that hard work. They start woe is me in Minot, North Dakota, but then you turn them around and they become this amazing young Airmen.”
Col. Walters looked at Minot as a place where Airmen are challenged, and because of that challenge they have to work harder and that makes them better. “I want people to make mistakes, but I want them to make those mistakes and then move on because they have gotten better. I want them to be prepared for that next challenge when it comes.”
He describes both Minot Air Force Base and the community of Minot as amazing. “Our mission is 24/7. We are constantly being watched by our allies and our adversaries. When you are part of a no-fail mission, you have to be that good,” according to Walters. “And that is what makes our base, and our community so amazing.”
How would Col. Walters like to be remembered? “What I would like to think is that they saw me as the person that maximized the opportunity in this office to make the wing better, to make the Airmen better, and to make the conditions better for our families and to advocate for our force and families.” After pausing a minute, Col. Walters finished the interview with another thought, that he cared so much that he pushed us to be a better version of ourselves.
Here’s wishing you and your family the very best Col. Walters. Only the BEST come north, and only the very best leave.