By Lt. Col. Geoffrey J. Legler
137th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 137th Special Operations Wing hosted a change of command ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, May 1, 2021.
The 137th’s primary mission is the operation of the MC-12W. The MC-12 is a medium-to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Its primary mission is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support directly to ground forces operating in designated overseas combat zones. The MC-12 is a joint forces air component commander asset that works in direct support of the joint force commander.
Col. Daniel R. Fowler was commissioned in 1998 as a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. His career includes 12 years of flying experience and three years as an Air Liaison Officer with a Joint Terminal Attack Controller qualification.
More recently, Fowler has served as a Strategic Planner on the Chief Action Group (CAG) for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, where he developed policy and strategic initiatives on behalf of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Fowler also served as the Air National Guard Advisor to the Air Force Special Operations (AFSOC) Commander, providing liaison and advice on AFSOC Air National Guard (ANG) units for verification of statistical data and coordinating ANG units into deployments, exercises, and real world events and training.
Fowler is a command pilot with more than 950 flight hours in the T-37, T-38, AT-38, F-15C/D and MC-12W aircraft.
During his farewell address, Fowler said, “I came up here because I recognized something special in this wing. I know change is scary, but don’t be afraid of change. Be afraid that there’s change going on and they aren’t talking about you. Accelerate change or lose. The path forward is clear. And be very happy that when they’re trying to figure out what the new national strategy will look like, they’re asking you because they had faith in what you did.”
Col. Christopher Gries began his military career in the U.S. Air Force as an enlisted Airman in September of 1993, graduating basic training as an honor graduate and selected for follow-on training as a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) member. He completed technical training at Hurlburt Field, Florida, in June 1994, and was assigned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, for his first assignment.
Gries served as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) for multiple active duty and National Guard assignments, until commissioning with the Idaho Air National Guard in January 2002. He attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, and graduated from C-130E/H mission qualification training in September 2003.
Prior to his most recent position as the commander of the 137th Special Operations Group, Gries commanded the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, as an Air Liaison Officer (ALO), and the 185th Special Operations Squadron as an MC-12W instructor pilot.
Gries also serves as the ANG’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) Weapons System Council (WSC) chairman and is a veteran of Operation(s) Vigilant Warrior, Vigilant Guard, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Hope, and New Dawn. His most recent deployment was as the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) liaison for Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) to the joint staff, Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR).
Gries is a command pilot with more than 2,000 flight hours in the T-37, T1, C-130E/H, RC-26B and MC-12W aircraft.
Gries and his wife, Melissa, reside in Mustang, Oklahoma and have four children – Taylor and daughter-in-law Karlie, Hayley, Mason, and Brayden.
Gries’ first words to the men and women of the 137th SOW were, “It’s a privilege to be able to take us into the next chapter. We’re going to step into great power competition, global instability, and a world of change, and as we prepare, I would just say this – focus on developing our people (people are more important than hardware), maintain readiness (get in that 3-point stance and turn into the fight), innovate for the future (change is the only constant), and embrace diversity (it is truly our greatest strength).”