A change of command is expected at the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in about two months, as the unit’s current commander prepares for a career move downstate.
Col. Timothy J. LaBarge has been named commander of the Air Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, replacing its current commander, Brig. Gen. Verle Johnson. LaBarge will take the helm April 15 after two years commanding the 109th Airlift Wing.
The 105th Airlift Wing is switching from flying the giant C-5A Galaxy to the smaller, more modern C-17 Globemaster III. The 109th flies prop-driven C-130s, most of them equipped with skis for polar landings.
LaBarge, a 28-year Air Force and Air National Guard veteran, spent more than half his career at the Newburgh base, where he served in the 105th Airlift wing from 1992 to 2006 as a C-5 instructor and evaluator pilot, a squadron operations officer, the chief of standardization and evaluation, and the chief of the Wing Command Post.
LaBarge then moved into positions at Air Force Headquarters and New York Air National Guard Headquarters, and assumed command of the 109th in 2010.
“I look forward to returning to a great unit like the 105th Airlift Wing as it makes the change from one aircraft type to another,” LaBarge said in a news release issued Tuesday. “I will miss the men and women of the 109th Airlift Wing, but I look forward to facing new challenges with a terrific team.”
National Guard spokesman Eric Durr said a panel of senior officers and advisors to the adjutant general will begin looking at candidates to fill LaBarge’s role at Stratton. A new commander is expected to be in place by May.
“We’ll look at their military background, conduct interviews and then make a recommendation to the adjutant general,” said Durr. “We don’t just look at the unit, but across the entire National Guard in New York.”
Before he came to the 109th Airlift Wing, LaBarge served as director of staff for the New York Air National Guard, where he was principal advisor to the adjutant general and the commander on Air National Guard issues. He also served as New York Air National Guard Chief of Staff.
New York Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy said in the release that LaBarge’s role in a variety of positions at the command and staff levels have prepared him to command the 105th Airlift Wing.
“He has amassed more than 5,500 hours of flight time in a variety of aircraft, served as Chief of Air Staff for the New York Air National Guard, worked at Air Force Headquarters, and has served as an outstanding commander of the 109th Airlift Wing,” said Murphy.
LaBarge also spent time at Air Force Headquarters in Washington, where he served in the Directorate of Total Force Integration, Air Force Strategic Planning.
A graduate of St. Lawrence University in Ohio, he first joined the Air Force in 1983. He flew combat and combat support missions in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the first Iraq war and in the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His lengthy list of awards includes two bronze stars.
LaBarge lives in Tupper Lake with his wife Petra. He has two daughters and a granddaughter.
His relocation comes as New York’s five Air National Guard wings are facing proposed cuts to aircraft and personnel, as part of the Department of Defense’s Air Force budget-cutting plan laid out Tuesday evening. The plan cuts only one position at Stratton — almost all of the reductions are proposed at other New York facilities.
The equipment and mission of the 109th Airlift Wing, which flies LC-130 “Skibirds” that land on snow and ice, made significant cuts less likely at the Glenville base. The specialized aircraft is used on supply and transportation missions for National Science Foundation operations in Antarctica and Greenland.