New commander brings next level inspiration to 944th LRS

Reserve Citizen Airman Lt. Col. Jalen A. ‘Rex’ Whitener took command of the 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron during a change of command ceremony in front of family, friends, and military members Oct. 2, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 2, 2021.

Col. Rodney D. Lykins, 944th Mission Support Group commander, presided over the event and thanked 944th LRS outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Ronald J. ‘Smokin’ Sloma, for his exceptional leadership.

The 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron change of command official party stand at attention during the ceremony at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 2, 2021. Col. Rodney D. Lykins, 944th Mission Support Group commander, claps as Lt. Col. Jalen Whitener, becomes the new 944th LRS commander. (Air Force photograph by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

“What a leader,” said Lykins. “In my 23 years, there are very few officers I’ve come across that rise to the level of Ron Sloma. His dedication to his Airmen, his experience and process improvement, his overall positive attitude to get the mission done is second to none. I cannot thank you enough for the amount of work and effort you put into it.”

Sloma spoke about his experience as the 944th LRS commander and had kind words for his replacement.

“It’s definitely been a huge learning experience for me and it has really opened my eyes to the challenges the support community has every day ensuring the warfighter is able to effect the mission. Rex, I know you’re going to do phenomenal work. I’m extremely happy that you are replacing me and I know you will take care of these fine men and women. I look forward to seeing what you do with the squadron.

Whitener comes from the 944th Operations Group with over 2,000 hours as an F-16 and F-35 instructor and evaluator pilot. As the 944th LRS commander he will be responsible for providing leadership, management and guidance to equip and mobilize 93 squadron personnel to meet home station, expeditionary, and contingency mission requirements.

Lt. Col. Jalen Whitener, the incoming 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, salutes his Airmen during a change of command ceremony at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 2, 2021. As the 944th LRS commander he will be responsible for providing leadership, management and guidance to equip and mobilize 93 squadron personnel to meet home station, expeditionary and contingency mission requirements. (Air Force photograph by Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Lykins laid out what he expects for the future of the squadron.

“His experience coming in, I think will now take LRS to next level,” said Lykins. “‘Smokin’ has done the transition, now ‘Rex’, it’s your turn to take it to the next level. I think you’re definitely up to the task and I think you’ll do a phenomenal job for these Airmen standing out here.

Whitener conveyed his gratitude for the confidence Lykins expressed.

“Thank you for the trust you put in me and for the opportunity to serve in this capacity,” said Whitener. “The folks I want to talk to are standing at the back of the room in formation. I am honored to serve with you, to stand alongside people who wear our nation’s uniform, and to pursue the defense of our nation. It is my intention to lead as a servant and to take what ‘Smokin’ has done already and lead us to the next place. Those shoes are going to be hard to fill.”

The ceremony ended with Whitener giving his Airmen in formation the traditional first salute.

The primary mission of the 944th LRS includes Wartime Readiness, Supply, Vehicle Operations, Vehicle Maintenance, Traffic Management Operations, and Fuel Management.

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