Minot AFB airman selected for prestigious award
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – On Dec. 30, 2021, an enlisted Warbird airmen from the 5th Communications Squadron at Minot Air Force Base was chosen for a prestigious opportunity to join the ranks of the Air Force’s commissioned officers.
Staff Sgt. Theodore Banta, a 5th Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mission Defense Team, received a call under the guise of a “Way Ahead” brief from Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), to congratulate him on his selection to the Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program (SLECP).
“I’m truly honored and humbled that I was a selectee,” said Banta on the phone to Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, AFGSC command chief. “I know there are a lot of great applicants out there. I don’t think anyone can do these kind of things by themselves. I have a great support structure, I have some of the best airmen I can ask for and more mentors than I probably should have. They help me to grow and continue to grow into the best person I can be.”
The SLECP is a commissioning program that empowers members of senior leadership to handpick enlisted members for commissioning through Officer Training School. Enlisted members who are picked demonstrate exceptional leadership talent and are incredibly talented in their area of specialties.
“SSgt Banta has been a tremendous leader and member of the 5th Communications Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Macey Bozarth, 5 CS commander. “Congratulations to him on his SLECP-A selection! We wish him best of luck as he goes on to be an officer in the USAF.”
The SLECP holds no board or application for selection, however during each cycle of selection the competition is extremely stiff with only one airman being selected from each U.S. Air Force major command. Staff Sgt. Banta, among the thousands of enlisted airmen from over the multiple AFGSC bases, was the only one selected for the SLECP.
“I look forward to seeing you as a second lieutenant and [I’m] looking forward to working with you in the future,” said Cotton. “It’s a late Christmas present and hopefully a great New Year’s present, congratulations.”
The noticeable difference between the two paths within the SLECP is while on SLECP-A, an enlisted member will pursue achieving their degree full time while remaining on active-duty status; and while on SLECP-O, the airmen already possess their bachelor’s degree enabling them to directly enter OTS. Banta was selected for the SLECP-A program, he will be pursuing his bachelors and will be finishing in less than a year.
“He has his ducks in a row and regardless of whether he’s a staff sergeant Banta, lieutenant Banta, lieutenant colonel Banta or general Banta. I think he’s got a great head on his shoulders and I think he’s going to lead well as a commissioned officer in our Air Force,” said Col. Michael Walters, 5th Bomb Wing commander, to Cotton on the phone.