MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
The 341st Missile Wing is responsible for protecting the United States with combat-ready Airmen and the most powerful weapon in the world. Three people lead that wing, care for those Airmen and make sure that mission does not fail.
Col. Anita Feugate Opperman, 341st Missile Wing commander, took command of the wing in August 2020. She commissioned in 1994 as a graduate of the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at Indiana University. She started her career as a missileer and gained a breadth of experience during assignments at Air Force Space Command, the Pentagon, Air Force Global Strike Command and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Col. Daniel Voorhies, 341st MW vice commander, arrived at Malmstrom in July 2021 after a year at AFGSC Headquarters where he was chief of the intercontinental ballistic missile requirements division and helped plan for the development of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent and MH-139 Gray Wolf helicopter. He earned his commission through Air Force Officer Training School in 2001 after graduating from Eastern Oregon University and began his career as a missileer at Malmstrom.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Becker, 341st MW command chief, joined the wing in June 2021 after spending 22 years in the explosive ordnance disposal career field. He started as an EOD technician at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri and has held many leadership positions throughout his career. Becker also deployed in support of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH, ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and NEW DAWN in both direct combat and combat support roles.
On Aug. 10, 2021 the 341st MW public affairs office had an opportunity to sit down with Malmstrom’s Top Three and learn a little more about who they are as leaders and their goals for the wing. This is what they had to say:
What do you love most about being in the Air Force?
Becker: It sounds cheesy, but it’s the people.
Feugate Opperman: Ah, you took my answer!
Becker: As you go further in your career it’s definitely not about the place, it’s about the people and the mission. We spend all of our time together, we could be in Hawaii and if the three of us didn’t get along it would be absolutely miserable, or we could be on the moon – as long as we get along, it’s great. So, it’s definitely the people.
Feugate Opperman: I agree, it’s the people. It’s what keeps you going every day and makes you want to get up. It’s thinking about who you’re going to work with, what you can do and how you can help. The other thing I love is our mission, we operate the most powerful weapon system in the world so that’s an added side benefit.
Voorhies: I like that…I was going to go with the people as well. I think a lot of people join the Air Force because they are excited by the opportunity it provides, but that changes. Every job is different and changes and the people are the constant for me. I enjoy getting up every morning and knowing that I’m going to get to hang out with folks and talk to them. That’s the part that’s exciting to me.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?
Voorhies: For me, it’s to be yourself. Don’t try to change who you are because you think that there’s a military image and you have to be ‘that’ person. You’ve got to go with your strengths and be true to yourself.
Feugate Opperman: I’d say don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and to be humble. If you aren’t sure, ask someone. It’s ok to not know everything, but at the same time, you can trust your instincts. If you don’t know which way to go there’s plenty of people that have experienced something similar to what you’re experiencing, so ask for help.
Becker: Honesty and openness. I learned very early in my career number one – take a beating when you deserve it. Also, how to apologize and how to tell the truth because bad news never improves with age.
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
Feugate Opperman: I would say caring and compassionate, but I have standards and expect people to live up to them.
Voorhies: This is a tough one to put into words, but I think authentic. My leadership style is based on authenticity and trust. It’s hard for me if I don’t trust somebody to be able to interact with them, it’s almost impossible. So for me it’s very important to be authentic and trusting.
Becker: I’m a big believer that all of us are smarter than one of us. I like to say I’m really bad at keeping secrets, so I don’t like to hoard information. That’s what I tell every First Term Airmen’s Center class and every Airman Leadership School class – if you ask me anything, I will tell you the answer if I know it. I won’t hide anything and I think it makes it easier for everybody to come to a decision when everybody has all the information.
If you could only tell your Airmen one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Feugate Opperman: I’m an approachable person, people shouldn’t be scared of me. Apparently some people think that I’m scary and look mean sometimes, but I want Airmen to know that I am very approachable and I want to hear from them and want to see what I can do to help them.
Becker: Tell the truth. There’s nothing we can’t overcome if everybody knows what the problem is and how to fix it. You don’t know what you don’t know and leaders can’t be everywhere. Tell the truth to your bosses and we’ll do everything we can to help you guys do the mission.
Voorhies: I would say don’t compare yourself to everybody else. Everybody has a different way of getting to where they’re at. There’s 152 different ways to get to where chief is and maybe more than that and the same here. Everybody has a different path and don’t get upset if you don’t think you’re moving at the same speed as somebody else. Bloom where you’re planted and work hard at every job you’re in and it’ll work out where it’s supposed to in the end.
What goals do you have for the wing and your time here?
Feugate Opperman: My goal is to have every Airman understand their purpose and how they contribute to the mission of the wing because everybody has a purpose in what they do, nobody is excess here. I want the Airmen to truly believe that they, as individuals, contribute directly or indirectly to how we do our mission.
Becker: My goal is to improve customer service. This isn’t specifically a Malmstrom thing, it’s an across-the-force thing. As we’re emerging from the pandemic and we’re trying to get back to normal operations, focus on serving our customers. It doesn’t matter what job you do, everybody’s got a customer, so we need to be responsive and take care of them. A lot of our folks feel like support agencies don’t care about their problems, so that’s something that I want to fix.
Voorhies: My goal would be to help break down all barriers that people have because I want everybody to be successful. The goal is for everybody to be successful in the job that they’re in and if they need help getting through a roadblock of some kind I would like to be there to help our Airmen when they need it. I know no one joins the Air Force saying, ‘I want to just tank it.’ No one ever says that. Everybody wants to do their best and then something happens. I’d like to just help people be successful.
What’s your hidden talent?
Voorhies: In Louisiana, we bought an older home and remodeled it, so I would say my hidden talent is being able to help people or help myself remodel a house.
Becker: I’m going to go with catching shrimp at Japanese restaurants.
Feugate Opperman: My ability to dunk a basketball.
Voorhies: Ask her how high the hoop is.
Feugate Opperman: Nobody said the hidden talent had to be true!
What’s your favorite thing to do during your down time?
Feugate Opperman: I enjoy baking and spending time with family and friends.
Becker: Cooking is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing, but since the pandemic that’s become a thing my family and I, and especially my son and I, do together.
Voorhies: I enjoy most outdoor activities, especially with our dogs.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Feugate Opperman: We’re here as a team to help the wing, so our job is to take what our Airmen need and advocate for them above our level. We want to hear what people need.