AFSPC officer tells Air Force story through art

By 1st Lt. Darrick Lee, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2005

AFSPC officer tells Air Force story through art
F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. – "Mission Complete" is one in a series of montages Capt. Warren Neary, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs chief, has painted as part of the Air Force Art program. His work has appeared in multiple art shows and represents only a handful of Air Force art pieces illustrating the Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile mission. (Photo courtesy of 90th Space Wing Public Affairs)

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F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. – Before the age of cameras and digital imagery, military artists provided the only pictures of war. They were embedded with armies to show the rest of the world a glimpse of military action.

Capt. Warren Neary, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs chief, has placed himself in the company of military artists like Emmanuel Leutze, who painted “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

The captain wrote and illustrated his first book in second grade; earned a bachelor degree in fine art from Utah State; was commissioned into the Air Force in 1998; and is one of three uniform-wearing artists out of 150 actively participating in the Air Force Art program. The artists in the program donate their work to the Air Force as gifts to the government, and it lines the halls of various government buildings, including the Pentagon.

“Whiteman’s Legacy” was Captain Neary’s first painting selected to join the Air Force art collection. It depicts various aircraft and missile systems that operated at Whiteman AFB, Mo.

He gained additional recognition within the military art community for his work “Faces of Freedom,” which displays images from Joint Task Force GTMO, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the efforts of servicemembers who are responsible for detaining and interrogating enemy combatants during Operation Enduring Freedom. This painting was accepted into the U.S. Army Center for Military History art collection in 2003.

In 2004, Captain Neary was selected to create works of art along with five other artists to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Air Force Space and Missiles. His work was displayed during the Air Force Art Program’s 2004 art presentation Oct. 29 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. More than 200 pieces of art were displayed at Andrews, six of which commemorated the 50th Anniversary of Air Force Space and Missiles. Of the 200, Captain Neary’s painting was the only piece representing the Air Force Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile mission.

The captain’s art was also unveiled with pieces by five other artists at the Air Force Ball in Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 19, 2004.

Most recently, Captain Neary’s “Mission Complete,” a montage depicting various Airmen performing jobs unique to the Peacekeeper mission, was displayed during Air Force Space Command Art and History Day, May 17. His was one of 20 pieces of space-related Air Force art selected for display at the show in the AFSPC headquarters building at Peterson AFB, Colo.

When asked to describe his feelings while painting, he’s quick to squash existing stereotypes.

“A false perception is that painting is a relaxing, freethinking act that flows from your fingers as you stand in front of a canvas,” said Captain Neary. “Actually, it requires a lot of hard work in mental thought – drafting and measuring to create a worthwhile piece.”

A painting is like a play. An artist must pre-determine who the soloist will be and how the supporting cast will support without drawing the viewers attention away from the main subject, the captain said. An artist must think about drawing, edges, color, lights and darks, and design before and throughout the painting process, he added.

For the 50th Anniversary of Air Force Space and Missiles, Captain Neary decided to create a painting that showcased Airmen supporting the Peacekeeper mission.

“A lot of people only think about the missile system,” Captain Neary said. “But it’s the Airmen of all ranks who perform vital work to keep our ICBM’s safe, secure and ready to provide deterrence and top-cover for our deployed servicemembers abroad.”

The captain wanted to show it’s the people that matter, more than the technology or the system.

By painting art that shows a Warren missileer on alert, a chef cooking, maintainers fixing missiles, security forces protecting, helicopter pilots escorting and a facility manager inspecting, Neary has effectively ensured them a place in history, along with the Peacekeeper missile itself.

“I’m fortunate as a PA [officer]. I have the opportunity to tell the Air Force story through broadcast and print media,” Captain Neary said. “But in addition, I can tell the Air Force story through paint and my artwork. It’s a real pleasure.”

The Air Force Art program and collection is the responsibility of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. It originated in 1950 with a collection of more than 800 pieces of art documenting the Army Air Corps and now serves to document Air Force history. More information about the program is available online at

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