By Airman 1st Class Magen M. Reeves, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 30, 2016
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The field is set. The gear is ready. The spotlights are on.
All eyes are on the field. Can the team deliver? Pitch the perfect game? Defend the goal against all advances? Remain undefeated?
The players take their places. Everyone knows where they fit and what position they have to hold. Heads held high, Malmstrom swagger on point.
Coach comes out last, spurring the warriors forward, proud of the team.
Col. Ron Allen, 341st Missile Wing commander, has waited a long time to be part of this team.
"I wanted to be part of this team," said Allen. "I am excited knowing that I am part of an elite team that respects the mission and respects each other. Being in this business, you hear about Malmstrom; the Airmen have the morale and swagger that other bases don't. It's tangible here. You can feel the love for the mission and for each other. You can feel the teamwork."
Originally from Marianna, Arkansas, Allen grew up in what he calls a "middle-America upbringing."
"I grew up in a small-town, rural environment," said Allen. "Doors were left unlocked. Everyone knew each other's business. It was an 'I'm gonna tell your momma on you' kind of place."
Allen's parents held several blue collar jobs as he grew up. His father was a farmer, a grocery store owner, a construction company owner and an insurance salesman. Allen's mother stayed at home to raise Allen and his sister when they were young, owned a dress business and also sold insurance.
He also has a large extended family, most of whom he says still live close to the small, eastern Arkansas town where he grew up.
"The Air Force has been a positive influence on my life by letting me see things I never would have seen leaning on the fence Friday night, reliving the glory days of high school football," said Allen. "I was fortunate enough to get a Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship because my parents couldn't afford school all on their own."
Allen attended Texas A&M University with an ROTC scholarship which he says is where the foundation of his military career began. He thought he'd get his degree, serve for four years and get out of the military, but 22 years later Allen is still serving.
"When you join (the military) you meet people who believe in you more than you believe in yourself," said Allen. "They give you opportunities and one success leads to another. A kindling fire and passion you didn't know you had for service and patriotism grows over time to a flame. Service before self, patriotism and dedication to country becomes part of who you are."
Team sports have been a passion throughout Allen's life and have impacted his leadership style. He played football, basketball, tennis and ran track in high school.
"There are different paths for different people," said Allen. "My path was through sports. You learn a lot about yourself playing team sports. To me, leadership and followership start with being able to lead yourself, and knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are. Because they will be revealed playing sports one way or another.
"It comes down to you and how you are going to help the team succeed," he continued. "It's about teamwork, and how to get the best out of each other. How to encourage each other. How to get up when you get knocked down. And how to help your teammate do the same. When you meet adversity in your life, if it's not the first time you've had to overcome it, it becomes easier with each successive time you have to."
What began in 1994 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, has lead Allen to several positions both in nuclear and space operations, including his previous assignment as the vice commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.
Allen took command of the 341st MW April 19, a wing that is critical in defending the United States with precision combat capabilities and directly impacts the nation's strategic nuclear deterrence plan. Few intercontinental ballistic missile operators will ever have the opportunity to bring their knowledge and experience to the forefront of a missile wing team, yet Allen remains humble in the position he now has.
"I don't get it twisted," said Allen. "I know I'm not that cool, or a person who deserves special attention. I know exactly who I am; Ron Allen, from rural Arkansas, 56 people in my graduating class, from a lower-middle class family. I've just been lucky enough to be on the ride of a lifetime. I'm enjoying every minute of it."
As a leader, Allen understands with higher positions come great responsibility.
"I am here to serve the 4,000 Airmen on this base," said Allen. "I am in the position I am in because other people believed in me. The military gave me the opportunity to succeed beyond my wildest dreams. I'm here to serve the folks on this base and the entire mission set."
Allen believes that supporting the wing's goals is key for future success.
"Precision combat capability, taking care of our Airmen and their families, and improving the unit through modernization are the wing's goals," said Allen. "We have an important, nationally significant mission here, and the American people trust in us to be successful in our mission of nuclear deterrence. While the mission has to come first, you can't de-link it from the people who are performing the mission. You have to have both to make it work. We have a truly vital mission handed down to us from our superiors. We cannot perform that mission without our Airmen and their families supporting them.
"Our unit's biggest challenge is to continue to move forward in a positive direction with the understanding that climbing to the top is a challenge, but remaining on top is a significantly different challenge" he continued. "We have to maintain the focus it took to come as far as we did in 2015 by maintaining the day-to-day discipline and the fundamental blocking and tackling of our business."
Allen has been a part of the nuclear deterrence mission his entire military career, a path he said he wouldn't trade for any other.
"The most honorable profession within the military are those that help prevent bloodshed," said Allen. "We all raised our right hand to defend America with the ultimate sacrifice if called upon to do so. However, Malmstrom Airmen ensure our brothers and sisters don't have to. Our enemies are not going to try America today, because they know Malmstrom is standing watch. They know the ultimate weapon on this planet resides in the hands of professionals at Malmstrom Air Force Base."
Allen said he knows there will be challenges, but he is prepared to lead Malmstrom's formidable team.
"My biggest challenge is earning the position I've been entrusted with," he continued. "It's not about me. My position is no more important than anyone else's on this base. It takes all 4,000 of us to make this work. Our people accomplish the mission; they take care of each other; and they work hard toward to continually find ways to make it better than they found it. As long as these weapons are in our hands we will ensure the mission is accomplished in a safe, secure and effective manner."
Allen believes in the team, and he is proud of the Airmen he has been chosen to lead.
"I want Malmstrom's Airmen to know I am going to work hard for them every day," said Allen. "I look up to them, and I'm so proud of them that it makes my heart burst to see them working hard every day and doing their best. It inspires me to work harder. I'm so happy to be a teammate of theirs, to be on their team is definitely a dream come true."