SPECIAL REPORT: “Racing into the Future” Local Airmen create World-Wide Impact

One of the leading intelligence organizations in the Air National Guard is right in our own backyard. The 181st Intelligence Wing in Terre Haute has a world-wide impact.

Posted: Feb. 27, 2018 5:54 PM
Updated: Feb. 27, 2018 11:20 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - One of the leading intelligence organizations in the Air National Guard is right in our own backyard. The 181st Intelligence Wing in Terre Haute has a world-wide impact.

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Over the last 10 years men and women have been very busy adapting on base. News 10's Melissa Crash gets us up to speed in the special report, Racing into the Future.

WORLD-WIDE IMPACT (Part One):

We're opening the door to new heights.

It was 2007 when News 10 introduced you to the 181st Intelligence Wing. That's when the fighter wing was given a new mission. A new chapter for the racers centering in, on highly classified missions. So secretive, we weren't able to pass security doors.

Fast-forward to 2018, the racers legacy continues. We returned and found a base with more people and more missions.

Commander, Col. Christopher Colbert remember the past. “The flying billboards were pretty obvious,
he added, "I remember in 1968-1969 laying in my backyard listening in the day when you could still fly past the speed of sound listening to sonic booms, wondering where that came from."

But he's excited for what's happening now. Nearly 1,000 airmen occupy the 181st. Over the past decade, all of them have adapted into their new roles.

Col. Colbert said, "It's difficult to take someone who used to load bombs on an airplane, it was tough to envision them sitting in front of a computer screen."

From the field to this, a computer screen. An essential key, to world-wide missions.

Col. Christopher Alderdice may be somewhat new to the base as Commander, but he sure see’s the effectiveness of what they’re doing. He sat down with us to explain. "They have done an admiral job, coming up on mission and becoming absolute experts in their fields."

Col. Alderdice adds, in the past, it wasn't every day soldiers made a major impact from Terre Haute. Impact in the forms of relaying information - keeping close watch on what's happening around the world from miles away. "It's totally different. From the stand-point of a fighter pilot, in today's missions and what they're doing at the 181st Intelligence Wing, if you want to have world-wide daily impact… it's in these missions."

Their ammunition fueled by technology.

"We feel very comfortable now, after a decade that we're really good at what we do. Now we look at, how do we communicate with the community?” said Col. Colbert.

And that's the other biggest change in the last 10 years. The 181st and their focus on growing our community. They want you to know its impact. In fact, in 2017 the men and women working for our country here - invested nearly $73 million. That’s investment, they create jobs and are a significant impact on our economy. They serve and protect the community, state and nation.

"We are you - you are us. We need to work together. There's a lot of energy in this smaller community,” said Col. Alderdice.

In the next 10 years, technology will continue to evolve behind closed doors. But don't be surprised to see physical growth. As this empty land has potential for expansion and new partnerships. "Energy to better quality of place, develop economically, bring great corporations to this town,” said Col. Alderdice.

Strengthening the bond of the 181st and our community, and combatting issues together.

“I'm really proud to be a Hoosier airman,” said Commander Col. Alderdice.

RECRUITMENT (Part Two):

Now we’ve brought you up to speed on what the 181st Intelligence Wing has been adapting to over the last 10 years. It's been a long journey, but the airmen are not slowing down.

In fact, they're taking what they've learned to continue on their legacy. And the key to that, is recruitment. Now the airmen, need your support.

It takes a certain person to take on the integrity of a racer, an airman.

"It's really eye-opening to see the world-wide impact they have, right in your own backyard." News 10 spoke with Airman Denver. He enlisted as a senior at Terre Haute North Vigo High School. He's now prepping for basic training.

Denver added, "I've always wanted to be a part of something bigger, and I think that's what I have out here at the Air National Guard."

Airman Denver says it's a sense of pride. The 181st is always looking to expand.

Master Sgt. Kelli is in charge of training new recruits. "I know it makes me very proud to know I’m able to assist our Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors everywhere around the world with what we provide."

Master Sgt. Kelli knows the ins and outs of Intel missions, fighting behind the screens and helping trainees, become experts. "It's a good feeling, you're also able to go home to your family at night, which is a luxury not everyone has and still have an impact on the world."

Wearing the uniform, and embracing the behavior. The 181st wants to find more people in our community who represent their core values. Those are, integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

Then, they can add to those values by preparing for difficult missions. Tech Sgt. Garrett is on the other side. He's served 14-years in the Air Force and has seen it all.

"When you actually deploy and put it into use and you're making a difference. You're making a decision that will save lives, or you're making a decision that could potentially could eliminate someone that's bad,” said Garrett.

Leaders, soldiers - helping recruit future airmen. That's the new mission.

Airman Denver said, "I actually never thought I’d be in this position up until senior year. I started to look more into it when I needed to pay for college, it really opens up a lot of opportunities and the networking, and the people you meet is just amazing."

Training them to protect our future.

To learn more about the recruitment process, click here to visit the 181st Intelligence Wing website.

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