944 LRS looks to transition to the next level with new commander

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron held a change of command ceremony at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, October 2, 2021. Reserve Citizen Airman Lt. Col. Ronald J. ‘Smokin’ Sloma, 944th LRS outgoing commander, relinquished command to Reserve Citizen Airman Lt. Col. Jalen A. ‘Rex’ Whitener, in-coming commander, in front of family, friends, and military members.

Reserve Citizen Airman Col. Rodney D. Lykins, 944th Mission Support Group commander, presided over the event and thanked Sloma for his exceptional leadership.

“What a leader,” said Lykins. “In my 23 years, there are very few officer’s I’ve come across that rise to 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 everyday 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 see 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.

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