Posts Tagged ‘Air National Guard’

Reservists Join Elite Thunderbirds Aerobatic Team

January 9, 2009
Aviation Calendar 2009

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 The 2009 air show season  marks the first time that an Air National Guard pilot and an Air Force Reserve pilot are part of the elite group. The Thunderbirds also recently completed a swap of their older F-16 Block 32 aircraft for more advanced and powerful F-16 Block 52 airplanes that will debut this season.

C-17 Aircrew Training System Goes Into Operation at Dover

December 13, 2008

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Boeing and the U.S. Air Force held a ceremony Dec. 5 to mark delivery of the new C-17 Aircrew Training System (ATS) to Dover Air Force Base (AFB), Del. The ATS began operation on Nov. 21 — more than four months ahead of schedule. It provides training to C-17 Globemaster III airlifter crews from Air Mobility Command and Air Force Reserve Command.

“In the past, aircrews at Dover had to travel to McGuire AFB [N.J.] and the Air National Guard base at Jackson [Miss.] to meet their training requirements,” said Mark McGraw, Boeing vice president for Training Systems and Services. “By delivering this capability to Dover, we are able to save the customer time, money and aircrew availability.”

“It’s great to just walk across the street to do the training. Finally, it feels like we are at a C-17 base,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jess Windsor, Evaluator Loadmaster, 326th Airlift Squadron.

Boeing has developed, operates and supports 10 U.S. C-17 ATS sites and expects to expand to three more within and outside the United States by 2010. With a tradition of successfully delivering C-17 aircrew training to the U.S. Air Force since 1992, Boeing has also become the C-17 training provider of choice for customers from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

The key elements in the ATS are the Weapons Systems Trainer (WST) — a highly realistic, full-motion simulator used for pilot training — and the loadmaster station, which is a training device used by loadmaster students to perform preflight operations, operate aircraft systems and practice emergency procedures. The WST in Dover’s ATS is the 20th to be delivered to the U.S. Air Force.

Boeing’s C-17 training contract with the Air Force also includes an option for an additional WST to be delivered to Charleston AFB, S.C. If that option is exercised, it will be the fourth WST Boeing has delivered to Charleston.

“The Charleston WST will be the first Air Force trainer we deliver that has simulated avionics instead of physical aircraft avionics,” said Tracy Mead, C-17 ATS program manager for Boeing. “We plan to upgrade all of the existing WSTs with this technology, which means that we will be able to return the physical avionics to the C-17 aircraft program, allowing it to increase its spares inventory.”

The C-17 ATS provides instruction to more than 1,500 new pilot, co-pilot and loadmaster students each year while maintaining continuation training for more than 8,000 active, reserve and Air National Guard aircrew.

DoD Reforms National Guard, Reserve

December 2, 2008
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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has charged DoD to develop plans to take action on 64 of the 95 recommendations for changes to the U.S. military reserves made by a congressionally mandated commission earlier this year.

The department already has acted on 18 of the recommendations made in January by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, which was convened in 2004 to review and recommend changes needed to move the reserve-component force from a Cold War-era strategic reserve to an operational reserve fully integrated with its active-duty counterparts.

In all, the department is working to implement 82 of the 95 recommendations. Gates referred two of the recommendations to other Cabinet departments, and he chose not to act on 11 of the recommendations.

“The Congress, the commission and the department all recognized that the National Guard and Reserves are integral to the total force and have assumed a greater operational role in today’s force,” Gates wrote in a memorandum he signed yesterday. “The department greatly appreciates the support of Congress and the diligence of the commission for its comprehensive review and recommendations for improving the National Guard and Reserve.”

After the release of the commission’s report in January, Gates convened a senior-level working group to review the recommendations and render its findings. These proposed actions come from the recommendations of that group, officials said.

The onus now falls mostly on mostly the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service secretaries, the undersecretaries of defense for policy and for personnel and readiness, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and other senior leaders to develop plans to implement the recommendations. Gates has given them 25 days to come up with their plans.

“I would characterize the timelines as very aggressive, and certainly the secretary wants to turn this over to the next administration with all of the actions in place and moving,” Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said in an interview at the Pentagon last week.

Key actions that will come from the plans will be further clarification of the reserve components’ role in homeland defense and civil support, the institutionalization of their operational role in future combat, improved personnel management and enhanced support for Guardsmen and reservists, their families and their employers.

“The Guard and reserve will continue to have their civil defense missions and this is a recognition of the importance of these missions,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.

Whitman pointed out that since the global war on terror started, 200 provisions in law have affected the reserve components. “The commission’s recommendations are largely in line with what the department broadly was doing on a couple of pretty important fronts,” he said. “The commission’s report basically validates the direction in which the department has been headed for a number of years.”

The first front is changing the reserve components from a strategic reserve to an operational force. “As a result, we have greatly increased funding for the reserve components, and we’ve rebalanced the Guard and reserves.” During the Cold War, for example, there were a large number of artillery battalions in the National Guard. Those soldiers have been shifted into more critical units, such as civil affairs and military police.

“As part of making the reserves part of the operational force, we’ve instituted the one-year mobilization with a minimum 90-day notification [of deployment],” Whitman said. In fact, the average notification now is 270 days.

With regard to funding the reserves as an operational force, Gates drew attention to commission recommendations 29 and 43 in his memorandum. Recommendation 29 called for the services to budget for, and Congress to authorize funding for, readiness requirements for both reserve homeland defense and overseas missions. Gates has called on the service chiefs to develop plans for funding reserve component operational readiness requirements not already included in their budgets to be considered in the fiscal 2012 budget review.

Recommendation 43 called for DoD accounting of reserve-component procurement and funding and the ability to track the delivery of equipment to reserve units. Gates said no consensus has been reached on how to add this to the DoD system. He has called on the service chiefs as well as the Defense Department’s acquisition, technology and logistics office, the comptroller’s office and other senior officials to develop a plan for accounting and tracking reserve-component equipment.

To improve personnel management, the commission recommended that DoD implement a combined pay and personnel system. From the start of its heavy deployments in both wars, the National Guard, especially, has found itself foundering with pay problems and personnel glitches as guardsmen moved from a state-based pay system to the federal pay system and then back.

The department is now in the process of launching the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, which promises an integrated, multi-component personnel and pay system. The Army is slated to implement the program in March, followed by the Air Force in October. The date for the Navy transition to DIMHRS has not been set, and the Marine Corps already has an integrated pay and personnel system.

Officials said they hope the system will provide a seamless transition between active-duty and reserve status. Once on line, the Web-based system can be accessed anywhere and will have all personnel data loaded electronically, they said.

To ease those pay problems, the commission proposed slashing the 29 duty status codes reserve forces use to calculate pay and benefits to just two: on or off duty. But, because pay and benefits for reservists are tied to the different status codes, reducing them to only two could cause a pay hardship, officials said.

Streamlining the pay codes has fallen to the Defense Department’s office of personnel and readiness, along with the service secretaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Guard Bureau chief and other top leaders to resolve. Hall estimated that they likely will be narrowed down to about eight status codes that will not affect pay or benefits for reservists.

“Will we ever get to two – on duty and off-duty? Probably not,” Whitman said today. “But certainly, we would like to simplify and make this continuum of service not so complicated.”

In health care reform, the secretary has ordered a comprehensive review of customer service and availability of the Defense Department’s Tricare health care program, especially the services provided to those who do not live near a major military hospital. Many reservists live in outlying areas, sometimes hundreds of miles from the nearest military facility. Hall said more local doctors, clinics and hospitals need to accept Tricare as a provider.

Gates also called for the department’s personnel and readiness office to assess the feasibility of allowing both active and reserve servicemembers and their families who do not live near a military hospital the option of enrolling in the Federal Employee Health Benefits plan used by the department’s civilian employees. DoD officials also are looking at possibly paying a stipend to the reservist who does not elect to use Tricare as a provider. It likely would not be greater than the cost of providing Tricare access, they noted.

Also, the commission called for, and Gates supported, additional funding for reserve-component family support programs, extended transition assistance, and a standardized reintegration process for all servicemembers returning from deployments.

The two recommendations the Defense Department referred to other departments were 57 and 78. The commission recommended freezing the funds in reservists’ flexible spending accounts in the year they are activated through their deployment. Gates said the department supports the recommendation, but referred it to the Treasury Department. The commission also recommended that reservists should have one year to apply for dental care through the Department of Veterans Affairs following a deployment. Again, Gates said, the department supports the recommendation but referred it to VA for action.

The 11 recommendations that Gates did not support dealt primarily with personnel management and accounting.

Hall, who led the DoD working group, called its efforts “exhaustive” as it examined the recommendations that affected reserve component funding, equipping and organizing.

“I’m very pleased with the process,” he said. “It was all-encompassing. We took everybody’s view and produced a document that is remarkable for its consensus.”

Hall said the implementation of these recommendations brings the traditional reserve role of the “weekend warrior” to an end and moves the U.S. military closer to a true total force.

“It means transition from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve — mission almost complete,” Hall said. “I say it’s almost complete because this is a major milestone in that transition.”

Hall called the past seven years a historical time for the military, and said more than 200 provisions in the law that affect the reserve components have changed.

“We have truly made our Guard and reserve operational forces working with the active duty. We simply cannot meet the mission of our nation without that 46 percent in the Guard and reserve. They perform magnificently,” he said.

The chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold L. Punaro, praised the decisions by Gates in statement released yesterday.

“The winners today are the men and women in uniform, their families, their employers, and the citizens of the United States,” Punaro said. “All will benefit from Secretary Gates’ landmark decisions.”

 

Fred W. Baker III (AFPS)

Air Force, Air National Guard partner for new mission

September 17, 2008
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The Air Force and Air National Guard officials have agreed to establish a temporary mission qualification training detachment for the RC-12 aircraft at Key Field in Meridian, Miss. This mission, conducted by the Mississippi Air National Guard, will help bolster the Department of Defense’s intelligence gathering capability in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

The RC-12 aircraft is the Air Force’s newest manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform (ISR), providing near-real-time ISR. Nearly $100 million has been obligated to bring up to seven RC-12 aircraft to the base beginning in January 2009.

This mission, designated Project Liberty, will train approximately 1,000 students during the next two years at the 186th Air Refueling Wing, located at Key Field. The 186th ARW will conduct total force mission qualification training for this program, providing the manpower and facilities for the training unit. The 186th ARW will continue performing its current air refueling mission through 2011, operating the KC-135R Stratotanker while conducting Project Liberty training.

“The Air National Guard is excited to be a part of this important mission and to play a critical role in providing this needed capability to today’s fight,” said Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air National Guard.

“The Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. William L. Freeman Jr., and I are very proud that the 186th Refueling Wing was chosen for this very important mission,” said Governor Haley Barbour. “This wing has shown success time after time because of the dedication and professionalism of its officers and Airmen.”

The Air Force, National Guard Bureau and Mississippi Air National Guard officials are working closely to ensure a smooth and effective transition.

Air National Guard Leaders’ Conference Sets ANG Agenda

August 29, 2008
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American Birds of Prey

North American Air Defense is a primary duty of the Air National Guard. “American Birds of Prey” shows an F-15 Eagle and an F-22 Raptor flying patrol over Prince William Sound, Alaska. Both fighter jets are assigned to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Get the American Birds of Prey tee-shirt at The PatriArt Gallery.

Safety, culture and the Air National Guard’s future were among topics adjutants general, wing commanders, command chief master sergeants and others from around the nation discussed at a recent conference in Wisconsin.

More than 500 Air National Guard senior leaders and safety experts met at the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center Aug. 11-15 for the Air Guard’s 2008 Leadership Summit.

Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air Guard, Maj. Gen. Wendell L. Griffin, the Air Force’s chief of safety and commander of the Air Force Safety Center, and Brig. Gen. Garry C. Dean, the Air Force’s deputy inspector general (IG) were among the speakers.

The summit carried a theme of “A look at safety, culture and other challenges,” and it provided a venue for the leaders, guest speakers and other subject matter experts to discuss what is working well for the Air Guard and what could work better, said Air Force Col. Marcus Quint, director of safety for the Air Guard, who oversaw the conference.

He added that the primary focus was to bring the Air Guard’s senior leadership, including Army National Guard adjutants general, together to apprise them of trends in safety and safety mitigation strategies. “To get them in focus during our turbulent time of day-to-day operations,” he said.

Colonel Quint said the conference participants understood the need to refocus on safety after back-to-back years of Air Force safety mishaps followed the Air Guard’s historically best flight safety year in 2006. “They wanted to be exposed to the safety discussion at the senior leadership level, and that’s what they got.”

“I just think this summit, which we’ve done for several years now, helps us focus on very important topics,” said General McKinley, director of the Air Guard. “This event allows us to come together as senior commissioned and enlisted leaders and re-energize and commit ourselves to making the Air National Guard better through strong leadership,” he said.

Air National Guard safety trends

Before a packed room, Maj. Stephen Stilwell of the Missouri Air National Guard described in graphic detail how his F-15 Eagle broke apart in flight during a November 2007 training mission. His left shoulder was dislocated and his left arm was broken. He shared his recovery story about getting medical care and other assistance as a traditional Guardmember injured on drill status.

Colonel Quint said having someone describe their experience in a [class-A] mishap, and how they dealt with its aftermath, personalized their safety message. “Commanders need to have such information at their fingertips … that is going to help them take care of Guardsman,” he said.

He agreed it was also valuable for wing commanders and vice commanders to network with the hundreds of Air Guard safety professionals in attendance.

General Griffin gave a keynote speech on Air Force safety following discussions on Air Guard safety trends, statistics and strategies. The statistics showed that traffic accidents, motorcycle accidents, and sports and recreation accidents were the main causes of accidental death and injury in the Air Force.

The conference discussed the likely causes of those accidents and injuries including failures to wear seat belts, using cell phones while driving and not wearing protective motorcycle gear. Colonel Quint stressed the importance of having effective and targeted strategies to stamp out poor risk management. “We have to find ways to make safety a part of our daily routine and cultural outlook,” he said.

Air National Guard culture and diversity

Culture and diversity was another important part of the summit, officials said. Among other presentations, officials of the Air Guard’s Office of Cultural Transformation presented a Gallup poll program to apply toward the Air Guard’s strength-based development.

Conferees discussed how focusing on workplace strengths in skill placement can increase Airmen’s engagement in their jobs, help maintain an Airman’s high quality of life and reduce the Air Guard’s overall safety mishaps.

Brig. Gen. Garry C. Dean, the Air Force’s deputy IG, then addressed conferees on the IG perspective in culture, accountability and leadership.

“It’s really simple,” said General McKinley. “When it comes to safety, diversity and our culture, and insisting on the highest standards in those and other areas, it all comes down to one thing: You can trace everything back to leadership.”

The director also discussed his philosophy and vector of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, and he answered questions during separate sessions with the adjutants general who were present, wing commanders and command chiefs.

Air National Guard roadmap guidance

Final break-out sessions provided forums for 13 adjutants general, the Air Guard’s steering committee for long range planning, senior mentors and subject matter experts from the major commands and the National Guard Bureau.

The groups worked on proposals as a whole and discussed the roadmap guidance for the Air Guard.

Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, commander of the Hawaii Air National Guard and steering committee chair, oversaw the discussions.

The results were provided back to the field Aug. 22 for senior leaders to gather comments and report back. The resulting drafts and roadmap guidance will be further refined until the Air Guard’s national planning conference this fall in Austin, Texas, officials said.

“It’s a dynamic process. It’s not a document you produce and put on the shelf,” said Brig. Gen. Donald Haught, vice chair for the steering committee. “We are basically building a way ahead for the Air Guard.”

Some of the many issues the leaders looked at were:

  • Cyber missions. Discussing what interest the Air Guard will have in future cyber missions.
  • Air defense. Defining air defense requirements to develop a program with a better funding base for air sovereignty alerts and other demands that follow air defense.
  • State joint force headquarters. Realizing that sourcing joint force headquarters is a high priority for the adjutants general.
  • Total Force. Defining the way ahead for how the field will integrate with the Air Force and operate in the future.
  • Homeland defense. Meeting homeland security and homeland defense requirements and capabilities, this will be evaluated and aligned with the National Guard Bureau’s joint requirements and capabilities.
  • Mission fit. Discussing how well a mission fits in a state and if it’s the right mission for that state, can the state recruit to the mission, and does it have an industrial base that allows it to do the mission easier than another place.
  • Mission distribution guidelines. Discussing the use of FEMA regions as criteria to ensure essential capabilities are in each state and the Air Guard’s role in those regions.

General Haught said the roadmap event was well received by those in attendance. “Developing this roadmap guidance is just another step in the process for us to do a long range planning and to decide our future,” he said. “The field definitely has a loud voice in the process. Their input will decide how it all works and goes together.”

Mike R. Smith (NGB)

Air National Guard Raptors Patrol US Skies

June 24, 2008
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The Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia,  is the first Air Guard unit to fly the F-22 Raptor in support of Operation Noble Eagle.

Operation Noble Eagle was established by President George W. Bush to protect the American homeland following the terrorist attacks in September 2001.

Aircrews from the wing’s 149th Fighter Squadron fly the Raptor.

“The mission for the protection of the homeland has not changed for us since the inception of Operation Noble Eagle,” said Lt. Col. James Cox, 149th FS commander. The capability of the 149th to carry out the mission has been greatly increased because of the abilities of the F-22.

The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions providing a diverse aerial combat capability for operational concepts. One concept the F-22 has become involved with here is Total Force Integration. An example of TFI is the combination of two force components — active duty and Air Guard in this case — sharing the responsibility of one mission — Operation Noble Eagle.

Under the TFI construct, the active duty 1st FW and the 192nd FW provide combat forces in a more cost-effective manner to support the defense of the nation, said Lt. Col. David Nardi, 149th Fighter Squadron operations officer. This is the first time the Air Guard has operated with a front-line fighter soon after it reached full operational capability.

The 1st FW and 192nd FW combined in October 2007 under TFI. That move made the 192nd the first Air Guard unit to operate the F-22.

“The integration of the two wings provides the combat capabilities we need to execute the Operation Noble Eagle mission,” said Colonel Nardi. The TFI construct adds a tremendous amount of ability from all critical areas required in protecting the nation and fulfilling the Air Force mission around the world.

The F-22 flew its first active-duty flight in support of Operation Noble Eagle in January 2007. The 1st FW’s 27th FS was the first unit to conduct an operational flight with live ordnance loaded in the Raptor.

“We do the same thing for Operation Noble Eagle as we would do in theater, in support of the troops,” said Colonel Cox. “The F-22 has performed brilliantly and we have seen our best response times to date.”

 

David Hopper
Air Combat Command Public Affairs