More Teamwork, Technology Drive Air Force Transformation
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2005 The Air Force will employ more teamwork and technology in transforming itself into a more agile and efficient force for the 21st century, a senior Air National Guard officer said here Feb. 7.
The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard "will stay very much a part of" current and future Air Force missions, Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Ickes II, deputy director of the Air National Guard, told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters.
The Air National Guard has long worked in tandem with its active and Reserve Air Force brethren, Ickes said, as part of DoD's Total Force concept. Air National Guard personnel, he pointed out, operate 100 percent of the ground alert facilities as part of Operation Noble Eagle for homeland defense and security in the United States.
All of the armed services have employed their reserve components "quite a bit" in recent years, Ickes noted, especially in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Almost 50 percent of the U.S. forces in Iraq, he noted, are members of the Guard or Reserve.
"That just shows the amount that the guardsmen and the reservists too have stepped up," he pointed out.
And since much of the Air Force's mission involves deploying and maintaining high-tech aircraft, Ickes said there's a tight bond between active, Guard and Reserve Air Force pilots, aircrews and mechanics.
That partnership will be expanded in coming years, he noted, as part of the Air Force's Future Total Force initiative, where Air Guard and Reserve personnel will train and serve alongside active members while operating some of the most modern and sophisticated items in the Air Force's inventory.
Ickes reported that the Air National Guard's 192nd Fighter Wing in Richmond, Va., which now operates F-16s, would soon relocate to Langley Air Force Base, Va., and become part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which will fly the new F/A-22 Raptor fighter.
Almost 1,000 Air National Guard members are expected to participate in the move from Richmond to Langley, Ickes said, noting they'll train alongside their active-duty counterparts.
Another initiative, he said, involves sending 10 novice active-duty aircraft maintenance personnel to the Air National Guard base in Burlington, Vt., for additional training in F-16 maintenance procedures conducted by seasoned Air Guard mechanics.
Yet another "huge" project on tap has Air Guard and Reserve members getting more involved in Predator unmanned aerial vehicle training to be conducted in Nevada, Texas and other locations, Ickes reported.
"We see, potentially, eight to 10" new Predator organizations being established as a result of that training, Ickes noted, because the demand for UAVs "is almost insatiable around the world."
Employing the Air Guard and Reserve in becoming more involved in operating and maintaining high-tech equipment like the F/A-22 and Predator, Ickes noted, is a force-multiplier that enhances Air Force and DoD transformation efforts.
For example, he said, the F/A-22, which will replace the F-15, possesses "phenomenal capabilities" that will enable it to do the job of several "legacy" aircraft.
Predators, Ickes said, are flexible aircraft that can conduct surveillance missions or be equipped with weaponry to perform combat duties. Predators launched from foreign locales, he noted, can be controlled from a stateside base, which reduces the U.S. military footprint overseas.
The UAVs also provide "real-time" information to combatant commanders, he pointed out, with practically no delay in communications.
Ickes said he doesn't see the Air Force's reserve components being absorbed into the active component, noting the Air Guard and Reserve each brings different strengths to the table.
However, Ickes predicted that the Air Force's reserve components will become "part and parcel" of future DoD missions, as more Air Guard and Reserve members integrate with their active counterparts to operate and maintain cutting-edge equipment like the F/A-22 and the Predator.