Leader Blues

Monday, May 11, 2009

TOP STORY >> Air Guard gets first black colonel

By CHRISTY HENDRICKS
Leader staff writer

“I have mixed emotions about it,” Col. Ronald McDaniel, 189th Maintenance Group commander, said of being the first African American full-time em-ployee promoted to colonel in the Arkansas Air National Guard.

His wife, Shirley, pinned on the colonel’s eagle in a ceremony last Saturday at Little Rock Air Force Base. He is the first African American to command the 189th Maintenance Group since the 189th Airlift Wing began in 1925.

“We’ve been a mixed organization for some time,” he said. African Americans weren’t allowed to join the ANG until the early 1970s. “I’m proud to be a leader in this organization. I plan on doing everything I can to be a good role model (for minorities).

“I love this organization,” McDaniel says. “It’s been very good to me.

“You get into a forced pattern of behavior and decide that’s the way to go,” he continued.

McDaniel began his military career in 1972, when he enlisted in the Air Force. He was assigned to the 314th Medical Squadron at LRAFB.

In February 1979, the then staff sergeant separated from the Air Force and joined the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Medical Squadron.

In 1984, McDaniel was commissioned as a consolidated aircraft maintenance officer.

“At the time, we were flying KC-135 tanker, a jet airplane that refueled airplanes in flight,” he says. He was considered a part-time, or “traditional Guardsman,” in 1986 when C-130Es came to the base.

In 1994, McDaniel transferred from his job with the Postal Service to full-time in the Guard.

McDaniel is active in the community, serving as a board member for various organizations such as Service to Mankind (Sertoma), Jacksonville Senior Center, Jacksonville Towers and Worley’s Place. He has been a Sertoma member of since 1984.

Joining the group gave him the opportunity to help the community. He said Tommy Dupree talked him into joining the club.

He says it got him “involved in youth football.” He’s been a member of the club for about 15 years.

The club, along with the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter, holds the Sam Hoover 3-on-3-basketball tournament annually. McDaniel helps to coordinate both the youth football and the 3-on-3 tournaments.

T.P. White recommended McDaniel to the board.

“Sertoma provided me with the opportunity to be confident with my abilities,” he says. “That has been the emphasis for some of the accomplishments that I have had.”

He has been named the Service to Mankind person of the year in the past.

“I really enjoy…working with the two different age groups,” McDaniel said of the organizations he’s active in. “I get around, I meet a lot of people.”

McDaniel, who was born and raised in Crossett, says a lot of relatives and friends from his hometown were on hand for his pinning ceremony.

“I was really touched,” he said. He says it gave them the opportunity to see that “I’m still the same person that I was and always will be.”

McDaniel leads approximately 175 airmen, both enlisted and officers. “Our job is to make sure the airplanes are ready for flight,” he said adding, “Most of our planes were built in 1962 and 1963.”

The group has 11 planes – nine permanent planes and two inventory planes to help with its mission.

“We’re really fortunate,” McDaniel says of the 189th Maintenance Group. “Most of our folks are hometown and have a lot of experience with working on planes.”

McDaniel has been in Jacksonville since 1972 and says there are “some wonderful people that I have met over the years. I think this is where I’m supposed to be.”

McDaniel says he follows the old adage of “free your heart from hatred, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much.”

McDaniel and his wife will celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

He is the father of Orlando McDaniel, Rolanda Shanell Paham and Ronald W. McDaniel II.

McDaniel is the grandfather of four.