MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Col. Steve Smart assumed command of the Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Wing during a change of command ceremony at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Mar. 4, 2023.
The official party included Brig. Gen. Chris Ioder, commander of the Kansas Air National Guard; Col. Jason Knobbe, outgoing commander, 184th Wing; Col. Steve Smart, incoming commander, 184th Wing; and Chief Master Sgt. Chase Liphart, command chief of the 184th Wing.
Ioder delivered his remarks to highlight both commanders.
“To Colonel Knobbe, I want to thank you for the tremendous leadership you displayed as the commander of the 184th Wing,” said Ioder. “No matter what the extra task or ask, you continued to successfully lead the 184th in the day-to-day taskings of the wing. Including inspections, wing exercises, 24/7 activation operations, while also maintaining the morale and welfare of the 184th Airmen.”
“To Colonel Smart, congratulations, Steve, on your new assignment as the commander of the 184th Wing. And to the 184th Wing, I say congratulations to you as well because whether you know it or not, you are all in great hands. I cannot think of a better person to lead the 184th at this time. He cares deeply for the Airmen under his command, like a shepherd of his flock, not because he must but because he is willing.”
Knobbe Praises the Fighting Jayhawks’ Accomplishments
Knobbe has commanded the 184th Wing since April 2020. During his command, the nation faced some of the most difficult time periods in recent history with a global pandemic, civil unrest, and military-wide recruiting challenges.
“There have been multiple challenges to contend with,” said Knobbe. “As my colleague Colonel Nate Vogel says, ‘You don’t get to pick your challenges.’ And trust me, some of the challenges over the last three years I would never have picked. The highs have been high, and the lows have been low.”
At the unit level, the difficulties were more personal. The unit suffered losses of Airmen, former members, and family members due to tragic accidents, illnesses, and by other means. A tornado struck Andover 2022, which is home to many unit members, family, and friends. The unit mobilized Airmen in response to national strife and international conflicts. And pandemic-era policies required leaders to make extremely tough decisions in an ever-changing environment.
But according to Knobbe, the Fighting Jayhawks met those challenges with grit, fortitude, and determination.
“We worked through these challenges together and hopefully our wing is stronger for it,” said Knobbe. “You all never cease to amaze me with your talent, collective brain power, and desire to do what’s right and get things done. You are an amazing wing and I am very proud of you and your accomplishments.”
Smart Delivers Optimistic Outlook Amidst a Challenging Landscape
Smart recognized that the nation still faces significant challenges. Actions by China and Russia pose serious threats to peace across the globe. Domestic terrorists and violent extremist organizations continue to threaten national unity. And 2022 proved to be a very difficult recruiting year for the entire U.S. Air Force.
Despite the challenges, Smart remained optimistic.
“While the national security landscape would seem bleak, it is not,” said Smart. “The Airmen of the 184th Wing stand as part of a strong and powerful deterrent to all enemies, foreign and domestic. You are trained and prepared to conduct operations in every part of the globe, and to help your fellow Kansans and our neighbors across the 54 in times of need. Wing leadership will work to set the conditions for mission achievement and remove barriers to your success.”
Smart transferred to the 184th Wing from the regular Air Force in 2016 as the judge advocate for the 184th Cyberspace Operations Group. He assumed command of the 184th Mission Support Group in 2019, and became the vice commander of the 184th Wing in 2020.
During the wing’s change of command ceremony, he explained his vision for the foreseeable future.
“It is our collective vision to be the premier multi-mission wing in the Air National Guard,” said Smart. “Our focus areas will continue to be mission-ready Airmen, domestic operations, and strength through connections and partnerships.”
According to Smart, the wing’s top priorities are to:
- Refine drill to be intensely productive and efficient for combat readiness training.
- Create a healthy work environment that celebrates, encourages, and promotes diversity of people, thoughts, and ideas.
- Operate on the legal, moral, and ethical high ground, free from politics and personal agenda.
Smart ensured the wing that he’ll give his best effort all the time, and that he’ll collaborate with wing leaders to make decisions that are in the best interest of the Air Force.
“What do I expect from you?” Smart asked. “Continue to focus on the mission, take care of each other, be professional always including military customs and courtesies, treat other people like you want to be treated. If you don’t remember anything else…just work hard and be nice.”