Meet the new 341st SFG commander

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cortney Paxton
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
After more than 20 years of service and nearly 15 different assignments taking him to places like California, Colorado and Saudi Arabia, Col. Kenneth O'Neil joined Team Malmstrom.

O'Neil officially took his place as the 341st Security Forces Group commander after receiving the group's guidon from Col. Robert Stanley, 341st Missile Wing commander, during an assumption of command ceremony in November.

"Being selected to be group commander for Malmstrom was significant for me as it showed a confidence in my ability to do this leadership job and help groom these young Airmen to do the nuclear mission," O'Neil said. "First impressions are lasting ones and this is a great assignment. [This base has] great facilities, great people and an awesome relationship with the local community so I'm really looking forward to [this position]."

Coming from the small town of Woburn, Mass., O'Neil brought with him to his career in the Air Force a positive attitude, good work ethic, respect for subordinates and a love for all things Boston.

Although growing up, O'Neil always had joining the Armed Services in the back of his mind, he was never sure which one to join until he had the chance to go to the Air Force Academy preparatory school. Following the school, he applied and soon attended the Air Force Academy. He received a Bachelor of Science degree and commission from the academy in 1991.

"At the Air Force Academy, there are technical aspects of the classes, but you get to pick what major you want to do and English is the one I really migrated to," he said. "I just like to read and write."

Following his commission, O'Neil was sent to his first assignment as a Resources and Operations Flight commander at Castle Air Force Base, Calif. After two years in that position, he was sent to Kunsan Air Base, Korea, where he served as a flight leader and officer in charge of plans and intelligence.

O'Neil has since traveled to different places across the nation; places like Washington state, Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, Wyoming and Missouri. He's also deployed to three different locations - Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Iraq.

"Home is where the Air Force sends you," he said. "Unfortunately, I've been remote from my family quite often between [temporary duty locations], [long tours] and short tours, but I think it's made my family stronger and increased the depth and breadth of my experience as a leader. It's always hard to be away from family, but it is neat getting to see some of the other cultures."

O'Neil received Bronze Star Medals during two of his deployments. One of which he received for completing a short tour to the United Arab Emirates, and the second he received for advising an Iraqi government ministry of interior general officer on force protection - knowledge that helped that ministry to not be attacked during his deployment.

But, no matter the location, the assignments O'Neil believes to have helped his career the most are his positions as a commander.

"[I'm a] four-time squadron commander, so I've had experiences in the nuclear areas, air base defense areas and base defense law enforcement areas," he said. "I've had a different mission in [each of the] commands that I've had, which have all helped me grow as a leader. But being a group commander is the most significant one I've had so far."

As a group commander, O'Neil is prepared to overcome future changes to the Air Force and his troops by being ready to negotiate manpower challenges so that the base's mission never fails. He also hopes to instill a sense of inspiration into the troops he leads and allow them the opportunity to grow.

"[I want] to see the young Airmen grow and become the next generation of security forces leaders," he said. "That's what it's really all about - grooming your replacement. My goals are to vector the group toward the wing's mission statement and help the wing achieve its mission. I also want to make sure we inspire young leaders and constantly remind them of how important what they do each and every day is to the nation."

When the colonel isn't focusing his time preparing troops and leading by example, he enjoys spending off-duty time as a father to his daughter, Shannon, and son, Braedan; and as a husband to his wife, Diana. He also enjoys time spent working out.

But, now that he and his family are stationed in Montana, O'Neil plans to break out his fly-fishing rod - one he received as a gift from his father years ago but has never had the chance to use.

No matter what he's doing, the new 341st SFG commander wants his troops to know a few things.

"I'm here to work for them," he said. "They work for the Air Force and I'm here to help them get the mission done. I'm excited to be their commander. It's very impressive to see them in action doing the mission."