First female commander of 188th moves on, first non-pilot now commanding

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,484 views 

(from left) Brig. Gen. Mark Sicard, head of Arkansas' Air National Guard, formally accepts the ommand flag of the 188th Wing from Col. Bobbi Doorenbos during a Sept. 16 ceremony. Sicard would later hand the flag to incoming 188th Wing Commander Col. Robert Kinney. (photo courtesy of the Arkansas Air National Guard)

A change of command at the 188th Wing first announced Aug. 4 was formally held Saturday (Sept. 16), with outgoing commander Col. Bobbi Doorenbos headed to the Pentagon for duties under an expected promotion to brigadier general.

Col. Robert Kinney is a career intelligence officer and the first non-pilot to command the 188th.

The 188th, an Air Guard unit based in Fort Smith, changed in June 2014 from a manned flying mission to an unmanned mission focused on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Doorenbos took command of the unit on Jan. 13, 2015. She assumed command after serving as the 214th Reconnaissance Group commander for the Arizona ANG at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. There she was responsible for providing combat qualified MQ-1 Predator aircrews in support of contingency operations overseas and domestic awareness and assessment capabilities within the United States.

During Saturday’s ceremony held at the Fort Smith Convention Center, Doorenbos was presented the Legion of Merit and Arkansas Distinguished Service Medals from Brig. Gen. Mark Sicard, Arkansas’ Air National Guard Commander, for her service as wing commander. Doorenbos, a former F-16 pilot, also served as the Wing’s air commander and was responsible for all support and operational functions.

Kinney is now in charge of around 1,000 employees, with around 660 being full-time. The 188th’s three primary missions are Remotely Piloted Aircraft (MQ-9 Reaper); Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); and Targeting (Space-Focused). According to the Air Guard, the unit has an annual impact of $40 million on the local economy.

Kinney served as the 188th Wing’s vice commander from 2016-2017 and as the 188th ISR group commander from 2013 to 2016. His duties during that time included providing “near-real time information, data, and intelligence to air, ground, and naval force component commanders around the world for use in the planning and execution of military operations across the spectrum of conflict,” according to the Air Guard.

Outgoing 188th Wing Commander Col. Bobbi Doorenbos leaves the change of command ceremony.

“Col. Kinney’s drive is through his passion for his people,” Brig. Gen. Sicard said in a statement. “He has become a household name in the Intel ISR communities, worked on presidential budgets, has worked with all levels of staff and seems to graduate every school as either a distinguished graduate or the valedictorian.”

In an August speech during a Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce event, Kinney said the unit is unique in that it has “side-by-side intelligence experts and flyers sitting next to one another. … That’s often separated around the country. That’s unique, and we hope to be able to leverage that going forward.”

The 188th is expected in the next few years to see many of its functions consolidated under one roof. Kinney said in August that a two-story $15.2 million facility is in the plans and will be about 40,000 square feet.

“We’re slated for groundbreaking next year, and it will take about two years to construct the facility,” Kinney told Talk Business & Politics in August.