McChord Reservist shoots straight from the hip about new command

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachael Garneau
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
In the midst of 280 acres of flat Colorado farmland, stands a man with the gaze of Clint Eastwood. His day will include bailing hay, tending his barn or herding cattle with his son. It's hard work, but at least he can look out at his ranch and admire the fruits of his labor.

This dream life is a reality for Col. Leon Barringer, the newly-appointed 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron commander here.

Once a month, Barringer swaps his cowboy boots for combat boots and hoofs it from his Colorado home to his duty station here at McChord Field. In addition to his command role with ASTS, he works as a civilian large-animal veterinarian at both his ranch in Fairplay, Colo., and near his home in Monument, Colo.

However, Barringer's history isn't all about helping four-legged patients. He's a combat veteran with medic experience on the battlefield. He also served with Special Forces in the Army Reserve for 16 years.

"I think having a special operations background teaches you not to panic in chaos," said Barringer. "In fact, you can thrive in chaos. In this position, with a lot of things happening around you, there is no such thing as a normal drill weekend. If someone came in here right now with some sort of catastrophic problem, my training would be to deduce it to the integral parts and move through it. I'm not going to lose control with a knee-jerk reaction."

Barringer joined the 446th ASTS in 2005 as a Public Health officer. His most recent deployment was in 2011 when he acted as the deputy command surgeon in Kabul, Afghanistan. Because of this background, he believes in having a well-prepared, mobile force.

"I need my unit to be ready, regardless of the circumstances," said Barringer. "So when our phone rings, if it's support for a civilian catastrophe, a (Department of Defense) response to a threat, whatever it is, they need to be ready. Our primary mission is to go out and save lives. If you're not about packing up and heading out, you're probably in the wrong unit. You need to be ready to go."

Whether his airmen are deploying or staying behind at base in a support capacity, Barringer gazes out and envisions great opportunities on the horizon for his unit.

"The future of ASTS is really bright," he said. "The mission will change, but the fact of the matter is when we look at how we manage combat casualties, the system is unparalleled. I think it's going to get better and better and more streamlined. The beneficiaries are going to be the guys at the pointy end of the spear. As long as the mission is to conserve life, we're going to be moving in the right direction. Our country has a high value on human life."

Barringer began his military career as an active-duty enlisted Airman. The tradition of service has carried on with his children. Of his five sons, one is currently attending the U.S. Air Force Academy, another will begin there this summer, and one graduated from the USAFA and is attending medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science in Bethesda, Md.

He's hoping he can be a good example for the next group of Air Force leaders in his unit, as well.

"As a rancher, it's great, because at the end of the day, if you put up a bunch of hay bales, you can look at the barn and say the barn is full," said Barringer. "That is very satisfying. The same concept applies to being a leader and passing along your knowledge to the next generation. When you're done with the day, you look back and say, 'I accomplished something.' So, we're going to work hard while I'm commander to push forward in training and readiness."