341st MW commander: A familiar face, new goals

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
As a high school graduate in 1984, his days consisted of cleaning bathrooms, renovating homes and working various janitorial jobs with his father in Indiana. All he dreamed of was serving in the military as his uncles had and to make his parents proud. After spending nearly 25 years as a U.S. Air Force officer, Col. Robert Stanley, 341st Missile Wing commander, has lived that dream.

Born in Kokomo, Ind., Stanley was adopted as an infant and was raised by a middle-aged couple. Growing up, 'hero' was frequently matched with his family members who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. When the time came to enter the U.S. Armed Services, Stanley was prepared to enlist as an artillery soldier in the Army when an unforeseen opportunity landed in the mail.

"The date came [to enlist in the Army] in 1984," Stanley said. "I went out to start my 1977 Chevette but it wouldn't start. While I was waiting for my friend to pick me up so we could both enlist, I went to get the mail for dad. That's when I got the letter from Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. The very first paragraph said 'Congratulations. You've been awarded a four-year scholarship to Purdue.' I still remember what the air smelled like when I read that paragraph."

After his graduation from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Stanley traveled to Comiso Air Station, Italy, to serve in his first position as the 302nd Tactical Missile Squadron senior deputy combat crew instructor/evaluator. Although he rarely strayed from the nuclear world, his experience in varied positions include a senior Minuteman III evaluator/crew commander at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.; a Delta II launch controller and assistant operations officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and a Space Launch and Ranges Division deputy chief at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He also provided direct support to the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding all things nuclear and conventional global strike operations.

"From getting that ROTC scholarship, to 1996 when I was a captain sitting in a block house in Cape Canaveral as the launch crew commander for NASA's Mars Pathfinder, and to today, I'm the wing commander," he said. "To me, that is unimaginable and very surreal. But I think it happened for a reason. I think my background taught me a lot about ethics and hard work. It influences how I think and how I do things. It has allowed me to go into a room with Airmen who maybe feel like there's a certain limit on them based on their background, heritage or how much money they make. It really allows me to pass on the message that the only limit Airmen have is what they put on themselves. You can achieve anything you want, and that's what makes this country so great."

Now, on his 16th assignment, Stanley; his wife Cheryl; and their two daughters, Laura and Beth; first arrived at Malmstrom Air Force Base in June, 2011, where he served as the wing vice commander for nearly two years.

"My impression of Malmstrom Air Force Base is that it has one of the most professional groups of people I have ever seen," he said. "We were tickled when we found out we were going to stay here. This place really has become our home town. It's close-knit and there's a camaraderie here you don't find at the other missile wings. I think a lot of that is due to the relationship we have with the community and we have people here who believe in the mission."

Stanley's experience in leadership positions have more than prepared him to take on the responsibility of the wing's 4,000 combat-ready Airmen and nuclear forces for base support, maintenance, security and operation of 150 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

"My goals for the Airmen of Malmstrom are for them to believe in their mission here," Stanley said. "I want them to know their job inside and out, and I want them to have the guts to step forward when they need help. I will be there for them and I will listen to them. I will always have their back."

In his off-duty time, Stanley can be found playing cards with his wife and friends on their back patio, enjoying a meal at Eddie's Supper Club, hunting in Wyoming and watching college football [Purdue University especially].