Roberts takes over at CRTC

ALPENA -Lt. Col. J. Andrew Roberts of Gaylord was sworn in as the commander at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center during a Michigan Air National Guard change-of-command ceremony Friday afternoon.

Roberts is replacing Col. Bryan Teff, who is now serving as the 127th Wing Mission Support Group commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Teff’s position was held by interim Commander Lt. Col. Timothy S. Brock until Roberts was chosen for the position.

Brig. Gen. Leonard Isabelle Jr., Michigan National Guard Commander, presided over the ceremony.

Isabelle acknowledged the accomplishments of Teff during his time as commander at the CRTC, and thanked him for his hard work and dedication to the center. He also acknowledged Brock for keeping things running smoothly at the base and taking on the task of filling in as commander.

Isabelle went on to discuss the accolades of Roberts that made him a highly recommended fit as commander for the center.

“Lt. Col. Roberts has held a diverse array of military assignments, most recently as the bilateral affairs officer in Latvia,” Isabelle said. “As a seasoned airman, he is prepared to lead the men and women assigned to the CRTC.

“He is the most qualified commander who is available to be here at this time, and I have no doubt he will be successful as a CRTC commander. He is here because he has a track record of excellence.”

Roberts earned his commission in the U.S. Navy at the University of Michigan, along with a bachelor’s designation as a naval aviator. He said he is happy to be back in Michigan. Roberts, his wife and their two daughters will live in Gaylord, and he said it is important to have that family support and know they are excited to be back in Michigan and will be able to transition to the area.

“To be selected for this position is quite an honor,” Roberts said. “I’m very excited to be back in northern Michigan. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of years.”

Some of Roberts duties as commander will include working in human resources with personnel management, juggling a nearly $9 million budget and marketing the CRTC to emphasize why it is the best place to come for training. Roberts said some of the biggest challenges of taking over the center will be dealing with personnel cuts, and getting the word out to maximize the units that come to the facility.

“This is an amazing facility,” Roberts said. “Our airspace is the second largest in the U.S. We’re right over some ground maneuver space that’s the biggest east of the Mississippi, and getting that word out to the larger (Department of Defense) community to get those units to come in here and utilize the facilities and all that entails is a goal.”

Roberts left active duty service in 1999, and joined the Michigan Air National Guard as an airline pilot for United Airlines. He flew with the 171st Airlift Squadron for the initial invasion of Iraq during Operation Iraqui Freedom with the 193rd Special Operation Squadron, and in 2004 he took command of the Grayling Air Gunnery Range where he qualified as a joint terminal attack controller and schoolhouse instructor for the Navy Seal JTAC course at NAS Fallon. He commanded over 20 personnel and an 18,800 acre training area.

Working in Grayling makes the transition to the CRTC even smoother, Roberts said, based on that organization being a part of the CRTC.

“I was a member of the CRTC from 2005 to 2011, but it’s the Guard family,” Roberts said. “It helps to hit the ground running.”

In February 2010, Roberts reported to the Pentagon as the chief of the Air National Guard Strategic Studies Group, where he led a group of officers to provide strategic research, advice and represent the guard on several Joint Chiefs of Staff, Headquarters Air Force and strategy forums.

Before his curent assignment, Roberts was the operations group commander at the CRTC where he led over 50 airmen. He just finished serving as the bilateral affairs officer, Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy, Latvia, and was responsible for international security assistance cooperation events, directed the National Guard State Partnership Program and advised Joint Staff, senior military leadership and governement officials of Latvia on exchange opportunities and capacity building exercises and initiatives.

Roberts is excited about the future opportunities for the CRTC and the community, and said he looks forward to seeing them both grow.

“These units that come in go to the restaurants, stay in the hotels and take the flights from Detroit to Alpena … and all of that plays into why we want more people to come here,” Roberts said. “That’s my biggest hope, that at the end of this tour … we can look back and see some increased utilization that impacts our people and our community.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.