MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Chief Master Sgt. Greg Fleming got acquainted rather quickly with winter weather in the Dakotas.
On his way to his new job as the command chief for the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in mid-December, he got stuck in Watertown, S.D., to wait out a blizzard. He arrived at the base the next day.
Fleming thought that was quite an introduction to Minot and all the snow kept on coming, he said.
As the command chief, Fleming is the 'voice' of the enlisted members of the 91st Missile Wing. Col. Chris Ayres, missile wing commander, hired him for the job.
Fleming, who was on the command chief list, fit the bill for the position with his background in maintenance, although it was in aircraft. So before Fleming came to Minot, he went to Vandenberg AFB, Calif. There, he went through a missile maintenance officers course, which gave him a background in missile maintenance.
Two weeks later, he was at Minot AFB.
Typically, a base has one command chief, Fleming said. Minot AFB is unique because of having two wings and each has a command chief Fleming and Chief Master Sgt. Mark Clark with the bomb wing.
Fleming explained his job:
"I represent the enlisted force of the 91st Missile Wing to the commander," he said. "I talk to the commander about enlisted policies, I'm the No. 1 advocate for all things enlisted in this wing just like Chief Clark is for the bomb wing and its commander. My job is to focus on the people."
Fleming came to Minot AFB from Tinker AFB, Okla., where he was an aircrew member on the E3 AWAC.
The Minot missile wing has about 1,600 people including about 1,200 enlisted members, Fleming said. He said 800 of them are security forces and others are in missile maintenance and operations.
Fleming goes to the missile field once a week, traveling there with the operators, the security forces or the maintainers. In the field, he gets a first-hand look at the work the missile wing people are doing whether at a launch facility or a missile alert facility.
He gets out on the base to visit and meet with enlisted members living in the dorms, at the dining hall, etc.
He attends meetings of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee and its events, and the Base Advisory Council. "A lot of our (command chiefs) days are meetings," he said.
Born and raised in San Jose, Calif., he also spent a few years in Houston. He joined the Air Force in 1982, starting out as an aircraft avionics person, specifically working on sensor systems such as infrared and closed-circuit TV, lasers and radar. He taught at technical school for six years and then got into flying, went back to maintenance and then went back to flying again. When he was flying he was a repair technician in the air.
"That's all I've done for 26 years is repair equipment on the ground or in the air,"
He was the chief of a squadron at Tinker. "The chief of a squadron doesn't do anything different than a chief of a wing, just on a smaller scale," he said.
He'd already had some experience as a command chief. While in Germany for four years at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, which doesn't have a command chief, the senior national representative picks a person to act as the command chief. Fleming did that for about 2 1/2 years and it gave him an introduction to what a command chief does.
"It became a natural progression for me to volunteer to become a command chief," he said.
Fleming has served in war. Showing a photograph of himself he pointed out, "This is an air medal from flying combat missions in Kosovo, here's the Kosovo Campaign Medal, here is the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (from) Grenada back in 1983."
"That was my first involvement in a war," Fleming said. "I was stationed in Florida and went with the AC-130 gunships from Hurlburt Field down to the war and repaired those planes for 30 days while they went over and helped the Army."
Besides Kosovo and Grenada, he's been to Saudi Arabia doing Operation Southern Watch and recently to Kuwait flying C-130s. "Going into all the airfields in Iraq, we'd haul all the people and bullets to the base up north and back. I did that for four months," he said.
"Yeah, I've been around, I've been through war, I've seen it. It is probably one of the things that has shaped me to be kind of a no-nonsense kind of command chief is because we had the job to do I expected people to do their job," he said.
On Minot AFB and its people, he said, "Our people and the bomb wing people these people on this base work harder to me than I have seen at any other base that I've ever been at," Fleming said. "So I feel very motivated to do whatever I can to help them... I'm going to fight as my primary job to help the enlisted people."
On the enlisted people now in the military, he said,
"The enlisted people that are joining the military today are some of the most highly educated that we have ever seen in the military.
"These people have grown up with computers, with cell phones, with iPhones and are very adaptable in using them whereas people like me have been around awhile (and) it takes a little bit longer...
"They are also a group of people that are some of the most patriotic that we've seen in a long time. The reason being is... they joined during a war," Fleming said. "This group of people joined knowing we are at war with terrorists around the world, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. They want to take part in that..."
"As a whole enlisted people in today's Air Force are more patriotic, more educated than we've seen in a long time," Fleming concluded.
Fleming's wife, Senior Master Sgt. Bethann Fleming, will be working for the 5th Bomb Wing's Communications Squadron as informational functional manager. The Flemings have three children: Sean, 15, Erin, 12, and Shane, 9.