December 13, 2004 (by Tech. Sgt. David A. Jablonski) - Air Force officials plan to tap into the inherent strength and experience of all three Air Force components to increase overall combat capability.They announced six test initiatives Dec. 1 that fall under the Future Total Force plan.
This plan that puts Airmen from active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units together for specific missions. Each component has unique strengths that together, produce a more effective combat force and efficient peacetime force, officials said.
"For nearly two years, we've been working future total force initiatives that will enable us to meet the challenges of the 21st Century with a smaller, but more capable Air Force," said Air Force Secretary Dr. James G. Roche.
Secretary Roche also said through the initiatives, officials hope to meet the challenges of a shrinking budget, aging aircraft fleet, and new and emerging missions by improved use of people throughout the total force.
The six test initiatives involve Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units in Arizona, Virginia, Vermont, Utah, Texas, New York and Nevada:
- The Virginia Air National Guard will partner with Langley Air Force Base, Va., in the transition to the newest fighter aircraft, the F/A-22 Raptor. The Guard unit will provide one aircrew to attend initial training.
- Community basing places 10 active-duty maintainers in the Vermont Air National Guard's 158th Fighter Wing. The purpose of this move is to capture the experience of the ANG senior maintainers and help train less-experienced active-duty crewmen.
- At Hill AFB, Utah, the Air Force Reserve Command's 419th Fighter Wing will integrate into the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing. Both units are at the base and fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The wings will combine operations to give the Air Force an opportunity to evaluate the Reserve and active-duty partnership in the fighter community.
- Texas and Arizona will incorporate the RQ/MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle into the Guard and Reserve to support global operations. Guard Airmen can take advantage of the reach-back capabilities associated the Predator and operate the UAVs. Officials anticipate a low turnover rate of people with the Guard and Reserve forces to significantly reduce UAV training costs.
- The establishment of a distributive ground station in western New York to process global intelligence information, which will further test the Reserve role in reach-back missions. The mission is a partnership with the Army and the New York Army National Guard at a location to be determined.
- The Air Force will integrate Guard and Reserve Airmen into all mission areas of the Air Warfare Center and Predator operations. The center, at Nellis AFB, Nev., manages advanced fighter training and integrates many of the Air Force's test and evaluation requirements.
The deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood, said he views the three components of the Air Force as equal partners.
"We have taken great pride in our seamless integration of expeditionary operations and feel the time is right to try this integration at home. The test cases will confirm the effectiveness of our future integration activities as we respond to the challenges of modernization and recapitalization and execute the decisions resulting from the (base realignment and closure) process," General Wood said.
These test initiatives will also improve the total force, said Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
"As an Army customer ... I am extremely excited and energized by the fact that these are bold, transformational steps that the Air Force is taking," General Blum said. "These are big, bold steps that will enable the Air Force to truly be a future total force and a more capable member of the joint team. We are better together, than separate."
An important goal of the initiatives is to reduce the family and community separations caused by long reserve mobilizations.
"What this really does is to reduce some of the stress and allows us to access the capabilities that reside within the human resources in the reserve component without putting them through the mobilization process," General Blum said.
"It's good for American employers, that these citizen Soldiers and Airmen can continue to work for them day-to-day; it's good for their families and good for the Department of Defense, because we're able to better access the special skill sets or military expertise of these individuals. And, it allows us to leverage those capabilities on the servicemember's terms so they can balance their family life, civilian jobs and military careers," General Blum said.
Air Force officials said they expect major commands to begin some of the test initiatives as early as January.