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Colonel Shawn Strahle of Chatham to Command Springfield's 183rd Wing

Col. Shawn Strahle of Chatham has been selected as the Commander of the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Wing based in Springfield.  

            Strahle, who has served as the wing’s deputy commander since September 2023, will assume command of the wing on June 3 from Col. Robert Gellner of Sherman. Gellner has served as the wing’s commander since July 2021. He has accepted a position as the vice commander of the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center in Germany starting around July 1.  

            “Bob Gellner has done outstanding work and has helped give the 183rd Wing strategic direction,” said Brig. Gen. Dan McDonough, the Assistant Adjutant General – Air of the Illinois National Guard and Commander of the Illinois Air National Guard. “Shawn Strahle has the leadership and the experience to bring the 183rd Wing into the modern era of great power competition.” 

            Strahle said he was “humbled and honored” to be selected as the wing commander. “The wing is doing great things and I aim to push it even further,” he said. “We will embrace the Agile Combat Employment and the Multi-Capable Airmen concepts” – the Air Force’s strategy to meet the challenges posed to the nation’s defense by “near peer” rivals.   

            The new commander also plans to help push the wing’s community presence in the Springfield area, both for recruiting and retention as well as to build local connections. Since the wing lost its F-16s due to the federal Base Realignment and Closure Process in 2008, some are unaware of its current high-tech missions, Strahle said.  

            The wing has about 260 full-time positions and about 920 traditional National Guard Airmen with valuable skills in command and control, maintenance, communications, security, engineering, medical, and cyber, among others. “Some of these jobs require a top-secret security clearance, which is a valuable commodity,” he said.  

Many outside the National Guard do not realize that the 183rd Wing includes an Air Operations Group, Strahle said. The AOG runs an Air Operations Center, the senior agency of an Air Force component commander to provide command and control of major air operations. It is a vital mission within the modern Air Force and requires a wide variety of highly skilled Airmen, he added.   

            Several of the part-time Airmen are pulling in six-figure salaries with the skills and certifications they earned in the Air National Guard, and they choose to re-enlist to remain part of the team that defends both their state and nation, Strahle said. He is looking to grow the wing’s cyber community and to partner with local colleges and universities. In January, the wing’s communications flight was redesignated as a larger communications squadron and Strahle sees the unit’s cyber mission as expanding further in the coming years as cyber becomes more and more critical to the nation’s defense. The wing’s Joint Cyber Range can be used to help train Airmen, Soldiers, and civilians in responding to a cyber-attack and the wing has other facilities that could be used for both military and civilian education and operations, Strahle said.  

            Strahle was enlisted for the first decade of his career, serving as a crash rescue firefighter with the Indiana Air National Guard’s 181st Fighter Wing in Terre Haute, Ind., from 1987 to 2003. After receiving a master’s degree in from Indiana State University in 2000, Strahle delved into information technology. He became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer in 2001 and followed that with a long list of cyber and information technology certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional as well as communications, domestic operations, and military planning and leadership courses. In 2022, he completed the Dual Status Commanders Course, enabling him to command both National Guard and active-duty military in a major domestic emergency.   

            He commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant in 2003, transferring into the 183rd Wing’s Communications Flight as the flight’s executive officer. One of his first bosses in the Illinois National Guard was a Maj. Rich Neely, who went on to become a major general, The Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, and the first master cyberspace officer to command the entire Illinois National Guard.  

            On the civilian side in 2003, Strahle became the Associate Director of Information Technology at the School of Informatics at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. In 2006, he deployed to Iraq as the Chief of Maintenance for the 332nd Communications Squadron in Balad. In 2016 he would be activated again, serving as a Cyberspace officer and Division Chief at Air Force Central Command’s A2 (Intelligence) headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.  

            Strahle rose through the ranks in the 183rd, holding multiple key staff and command positions. From 2017 to 2020, he served as the commander of the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron, 183rd Wing. In May 2019 he accepted the fulltime position as the Illinois National Guard’s “J6/G6/A6 Communications Director” – commonly referred to as the Chief Information Officer in civilian lingo. He was responsible for all computer network, electronic and radio communications for the 13,000-member Illinois National Guard.  

During his time as communications director, Strahle helped the organization address challenges posed by the National Guard’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple civil disturbance responses and other domestic operations including cyber election defense while still deploying thousands of Soldiers and Airmen on federal missions throughout the world.  

Strahle’s experience in both domestic operations and combat missions helped set him apart from the field of well-qualified candidates for the job, McDonough said. “The 183rd Wing, along with the Illinois Army National Guard’s 65th Troop Command, is often called upon to lead and staff our Joint Task Force during domestic emergencies. Shawn has great experience and is well respected on both our Army and Air sides and has been intricately involved in both our state and federal missions,” McDonough said.  

After accepting the job as deputy commander of the wing in Sept. 2023, Strahle has also had nine months to serve as an understudy to Gellner, who had extensive experience in strategic planning at National Guard Bureau prior to taking command of the wing.  

                Strahle’s wife, Dr. Ann Strahle, is an associate dean and professor at the University of Illinois Springfield. Their two sons, Phillip and Benjamin, are attending college in Illinois.

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