CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While being born in New York City and traveling all over the United States and the world on deployments Brig. Gen. Christopher Walker says he found his calling and his home in West Virginia.
On Saturday, Walker’s life in West Virginia changed, as did the history books, as he became the state’s first African-American commander of the West Virginia Air National Guard.
“The West Virginia Air National Guard has been taking great care of me,” Walker said. “They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in all sorts of different missions and situations. The leadership has groomed me to where I am today, honestly. more of them grooming me than me leaning forward for this position.”
Walker, who also serves as the Assistant Adj. Gen. for Air National Guard, takes over for Brig. Gen. Paige Hunter who has retired. Hunter was the state’s first female Air National Guard Commander, Paige Hunter. Walker previously served as the Chief of Staff for the West Virginia Air National Guard (WVANG) and said he knew from a young age he wanted to fly.
“I met a young fresh second lieutenant who graduated from the Air Force Academy,” he said about his story. “He sat me down and told me exactly what I needed to do. I only applied to the Air Force Academy, I didn’t apply to any other college.”
He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1988 and shortly after was in active duty stationing in California. After training to serve as a C-130 navigator in Little Rock, Arkansas, Walker’s first active squadron was in Biloxi, Mississippi in Hurricane Hunters. He joined the 50th Airlift Squadron in Little Rock after being in Biloxi.
Walker loved his time on the 36th Airlift Squadron in Tokyo, Japan after Little Rock. He said he got to travel all over Asia but got a call to come back to Little Rock one more time. He said at that point, he was thinking of the joining the reserves or the Air National Guard.
He chose the Air National Guard and was selected into the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg in April of 1997. Read more on Walker’s background here, at the National Guard’s website.
He said becoming the first African-American commander of the WVANG means a lot to him and is a poke in the chest to his friends from out of state.
“With some of the things they say about West Virginia, I say ‘well if all the things you say about West Virginia are true, I would not be here, would I,” Walker said. “This is a testament to how great West Virginia is.”
Today BG Christopher “Mookie” Walker assumed responsibility for the WV Air National Guard from BG Paige Hunter.
This was a historic ceremony, as Hunter is the first female ATAG – Air in the state’s history & Walker is the first African-American to hold the honor. pic.twitter.com/H1snAMe3PU
— WV National Guard (@WVNationalGuard) February 2, 2019
Walker will oversee more than 2,000 airmen at two separate air wings in the state, the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston and the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg. Before taking over as commander, he served as Chief of Staff for the WVANG, who provided command and control over the headquarters staff.
Walker said he got to pitch many ideas as Chief of Staff but now as Commander, more of those ideas may come to fruition.
“Before I had to run the ideas by,” he said. “As a Chief of Staff, I got to contribute but I would not be the final say on command issues for the West Virginia Air National Guard. Now, I can go forward with my ideas more.
“Quite honestly, it’s not a matter of my ideas but I can implement the ideas of the smart people under me. I am not the smartest guy in the organization. I have a lot of dedicated professionals out there who have fantastic, ideas, solutions and innovations. I have to empower them to actually try some of their ideas out. If it doesn’t work, fine we learn from it. I think in most cases we are going to see leaps and bounds in performance and efficiency.”
Walker said that the empowerment spirit is deep in the heart of West Virginia.
“One of the things that I love about West Virginia that shows in my Air National Guard, shows with my airmen, shows with our soldiers, but it also shows with the citizenry of West Virginia is what we have out here are good-hearted people who care about one another,” Walker said.
“Once we tap into that, I know it’ll make this organization much stronger. We all tend to look out for one another and we all tend to want to see each other succeed. I think that is going to carry us to new heights.”