By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (July 2, 2024) — The Air Force’s 368th Training Squadron held a change-of-command ceremony July 2 in Nutter Field House, where Lt. Col. Ben Carlson relinquished command to Lt. Col. Kevin McKinley.

Travelling from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, to officiate the ceremony was Air Force Col. Eric Haler, who commands the 782nd Training Group — the unit that oversees the 368th TRS.

In his remarks, Haler noted some of Carlson’s accomplishments, including training more than 3,400 joint-service engineers, emergency managers and ground transportation specialists; “an impressive run” of 14 out of 16 Maneuver Support Center of Excellence instructors of the quarter; and a two-year run of the joint service NCO of the year awards.

“I really could go on and on about Lieutenant Colonel Carlson’s accomplishments,” Haler said.

Haler also thanked Carlson for his “outstanding leadership, strategic vision and unquestionable dedication in advancing the Air Force’s most-diverse training mission.”

“You have taken technical training transformation to the next level, and you are now set to pass the baton,” Haler said.

After welcoming McKinley, Haler called him, “the right person to take the guidon.”

“I know you will lead our Airmen well, strengthen our joint partnerships and develop the mission-ready Airmen the joint forces need,” Haler said.

Carlson, who next heads to the Washington D.C. area, to attend a senior developmental education program, thanked everyone who helped make the ceremony possible and highlighted the partnerships and support found among the service members of Fort Leonard Wood.

“A little over two years ago, when I learned that I’d be the next commander of the 368th Training Squadron, I had no idea of the challenges or opportunities that lay ahead,” Carlson said. “I was intimidated by the prospect of being the ranking Air Force member at an extensive Army installation. I thought it could be a lonely two years. However, I was also unaware of the immense support this team would receive from the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, the garrison and our (Inter-Service Training Review Organization) partners.”

Carlson summed up the Fort Leonard Wood training mission as, “a team sport.”

“And this team at Fort Leonard Wood made the Air Force feel like a valuable partner,” Carlson said. “It was this partnership and the support from the greater MSCoE, Fort Leonard Wood and surrounding communities, which make this assignment special.”

To McKinley, Carlson said he is, “excited and also jealous of the opportunities, which lay ahead for you.”

“Since the first time we worked together in Qatar, in 2016…I’ve been impressed with your knowledge, maturity and composure in any situation, and I cannot think of a better leader to take my spot,” Carlson said, before imparting some advice to the new commander. “Remember, this command is all about the relationships. You have huge advocates on the MSCoE team and the leadership at Sheppard Air Force Base. They trust you to do the right thing.”

McKinley, who most recently served as the 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron commander at Royal Air Force Alconbury-Molesworth, United Kingdom, said the welcome he and his family have received has been “absolutely awesome.”

“I don’t think we were in housing more than 24 hours, and we already had four or five families come up to us and welcome us to the community,” McKinley said, before noting his father served in the Army for 24 years. “It’s awesome to be back (on an Army installation); it feels like home.”

Highlighting some of the joint-service missions he has been a part of in his career, McKinley said he was excited to learn the Marine Corps and Navy conduct training on Fort Leonard Wood as well, in addition to the thousands of Soldiers and Airmen that train on the installation.

“I could not be more excited to work alongside you now, especially in this capacity, building leaders and technical professionals for our fighting force,” McKinley said.

To the Airmen and civilians of the 368th TRS, McKinley said he, “couldn’t be more proud to be a part of your unit and part of this mission,” and to Carlson, McKinley said, “you’ve done an outstanding job.”

“Thank you for being such a welcoming family and being a great landing pad for my family coming in,” McKinley said to Carlson. “We wish you nothing but the best as you move to the D.C. area.”

McKinley closed his remarks by thanking Haler for, “the opportunity to lead in this capacity.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin McKinley (right) salutes Air Force Col. Eric Haler, commander of the 782nd Training Group at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, after accepting the 368th Training Squadron guidon during a change-of-command ceremony July 2 in… (Photo by Amanda Sullivan, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office)













About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 75 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.

Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.