— After almost a decade of leading Florida National Guard Airmen through one of the most militarily turbulent periods in recent history, a Westville native has left his mark in Florida and is working in the hub of the nation’s military strategists.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Balskus, commander of the nearly 2,000 men and women of the Florida Air National Guard (FLANG), passed command of his organization to Brig. Gen. Robert Branyon during a ceremony in Florida in late November.
After relinquishing the prestigious command, Balskus was promoted to the rank of major general. He also was awarded the Florida Cross for his distinguished service to Florida.
Since the change of command, Balskus transferred to Washington, D.C., to take a position as the military assistant deputy chief of staff, Strategic Plans and Programs, headquarters, United States Air Force. In this capacity he is working in the inner-most circle of strategic planning for the Air Force.
Balskus is a graduate of Westville High School and Eastern Illinois University. As well as serving as the Florida Air National Guard commander, he has held the position of the Florida National Guard’s assistant adjutant general for air since 2006.
“It has been an amazing ride,” Balskus said during an interview in November, speaking of his tenure at the helm of the FLANG.
Balskus began his military career by joining the United States Air Force in 1979. He graduated from Officer Training School as a second lieutenant in 1980 with the honor of Distinguished Graduate.
He was assigned as an air weapons controller while on active duty and served in Osan, Korea, Homestead, Fla., and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. He was combat qualified and worked extensively with the F-4C Phantom, the F-15 Eagle, and the E3A (Airborne Warning and Control System). Following in-residence Squadron Officer School, Balskus was assigned as an associate professor of aerospace studies at the Citadel, Military College of South Carolina from 1984–88.
In 1990, after serving eight years on active duty and two years in the Air Force Reserves he joined the Florida Air National Guard. Balskus has commanded at every level with squadron, group, and state positions.