New Commander, Familiar Face for 91 SFG

Jun 20, 2024
Written by: Erin Beene
Col Slaton and his wife Julie, on top of Sully’s Hill (now known as White Horse Hill) overlooking Devils Lake in the fall of 2017.

The 91st Security Forces Group has undergone some major changes in the last 15 years. Schedule changes were put in place due to the pandemic a few years ago, but before that, in 2016, the Group underwent a major shift in task organization and posting norms that shook-up all of the missile bases for the better. One of the people who contributed to that major shift was then-Lt Colonel James Slaton, the SFG Deputy Commander at the time.

Airmen that have been around the missile world for a while may remember a time when individual flights from two Missile Security Forces Squadrons —termed “big and heavy missiles”— posted out to the field to perform specific roles and tasks. When the reorganization of the SFG took place in 2016, it consolidated most of these roles into three MSFSs to take on all these tasks, with exception of convoy response. Col Slaton was instrumental in creating this reorganization, which has overall been very positive for the missile Defender community.

Like most of the time when major changes happen in the military, Col Slaton said it was difficult to get everyone on board, but that they now realize how positive it was. He said, “Once the shock wore off, the overwhelming feedback was very positive.” Slaton mentioned that one of the main goals for the reorganization was to allow the individual MSFS to be able to all be in the same place at the same time to allow for camaraderie building, unit events and training, which is a rarity for SF members in most other units. Because of the success of this reorganization at Minot AFB, the other two missile bases, Malmstrom and F.E Warren, also followed suit, creating this task organization as the standard. Since then, the operational Missile Squadrons (740th, 741st, 742d) have also modeled their posting to align with this concept, creating a missile and Security Forces partnership between squadrons that previously did not exist. These major and positive changes are due in a large part to incoming SFG commander Col Slaton.

This summer, now-Colonel Slaton will return to Minot AFB as the 91 SFG Commander. He hopes to continue to impact on the Minot Defenders this time around by “helping to build strong families who all want to continue in service,” and showing Airmen that Air Force life can be a positive challenge for their lives by taking ownership of their careers and responsibilities.

Col Slaton returns north from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where he served as Division Chief, PACAF Security Forces. This will be his 3rd tour at Minot and, to the surprise of many, he requested to go back. From his own admission, he and his wife Julie love Minot and were ecstatic when they got the word of the assignment. He recalled that their absolute favorite thing about North Dakota was the fact that they do indeed have four beautiful seasons. Although they live in the tropics, Slaton stated, “Hawaii is great, but it is the same every day.” They can’t wait to revisit the North Dakota sunrise and see the holiday lights at Oak Park during December. Outdoor people to the core, the Slatons love the majesty of the Turtle Mountains and the sweeping landscapes of the Souris River Valley.

As a northern tier veteran (he had previously commanded at Eielson AFB, Alaska), Col Slaton is painstakingly familiar with the negative opinions sometimes associated with Minot. However, he hopes to help Airmen focus on how they can thrive in the cold and use it as an ally instead of an enemy. He said, “Winter plays a role in combat. I want to use that to our advantage and not fight against it.” Additionally, he hopes to show Defenders that what they contribute is really important. “Young Airmen don’t realize how big of a deal it is. The [SFG Airmen] really do a lot but it can get lost on them because the job can be so routine.”

Col Slaton has seven years of “sweat equity” burned into the SFG from previous assignments and he is excited to see it grow and build even more as he takes over command this summer. He understands the SFG from the inside out and hopes to make a lasting impression on the Minot AFB Airmen, saying: “There is a lot of stuff going on and lots of room for Airmen to grow. There are so many skills they can take with them and carry into civilian life. Life in the missile field is a rare, but opportunity-filled, place to develop skills that can’t be learned anywhere else.”

Welcome back to Minot AFB, Col and Julie Slaton!

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