November Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Akshai Gandhi, 169th Fighter Wing vice commander

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Akshai Gandhi, 169th Fighter Wing vice commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait, Jan. 2, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

It is hard to believe the end of 2017 is already upon us! The Airmen of the 169th Fighter Wing have again demonstrated how well prepared we are to meet any challenge which may face our State and Nation. Of recent, our mettle has been tested both in the real world and by the Air Force.

While Hurricane Irma fortunately took a more westerly path and spared South Carolina from a direct hit by a Category 4 Tropical Storm, the South Carolina National Guard stood up and made effective preparations for the worst. In less than 48 hours, we reconfigured 21 aircraft. 16 were dispersed to safe locations to avoid the storm, while four remained on status at alert until we needed to shelter them in place. As the storm’s path shifted further west, we were comfortably able to keep the alert jets at McEntire in order to return get them back on alert status as soon as possible after the storm had passed. By the way, almost all of our aircraft landed code 1 (no discrepancies) save the one minor code 2 (safely flyable) write up. When it was time to bring them home, there was also no drama. At the same time, you were buttoning up the base for the storm while we transitioned our focus to receiving and bedding down aircraft which would go forward to assist Florida during the rescue and recovery phases. These accomplishments were very favorably noted by both the senior leadership of the National Guard Bureau and Air Combat Command.

October was inspection season for the Wing.  Alert passed both their biennial Alert Forces Operational Assessment and Fighter Alert Forces Evaluation from Headquarters, 1st Air Force and the North American Air Defense Command respectively with flying colors.  We were then visited by the Air Combat Command Inspector General for our Capstone Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI).  While that report is not yet final, the wing was graded “Effective” in the four major graded areas (Managing Resources, Leading People, Improving the Unit, Executing the Mission). While there are always things to work on, the senior leadership is very satisfied with how the inspection went—especially considering our pace of “real world” operations during the last four years and how the new Air Force Inspection System is still evolving.

During our UEI, many of you were introduced to the SCANG’s Capstone Principles—Right Base, Right Experience, Ready Now.  As we go into the Holiday Season, you will likely have some folks ask you about what you do at McEntire and what the Air National Guard does. Hopefully our Capstone Principles will help you explain what we do and what the military value of both McEntire and the Air National Guard is to our State and Nation:

  • Right Base – McEntire JNGB is…

    • A 2,400-acre Federal installation which is home to over 4,000 Airmen & Soldiers, 60 combat aircraft (26 Block 52 F-16s, 24 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, 10 UH-60L medium-lift transport helicopters), a 56-bay Combined Support Maintenance Shop, and a Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center (where 8+ units—1000+ Soldiers drill)

    • The “environmentally preferred alternative” for F-35 basing in a September 2013 Environmental Impact Study (EIS).  Our rural location coupled with remarkable community support make us an ideal location for evolving missions.

    • Ideally situated in the Southeastern United States with access to expansive overland and overwater ranges and airspace. This is the reason why the Active Duty Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have such a significant presence which enables us to be experts at working with our joint partners.

    • A routinely utilized location for a wide variety of joint conventional and special operations training. We also host numerous local, state, and federal agencies and serve as South Carolina’s primary airfield for domestic operations response.

  • Right Experience – This is what you and your fellow Swamp Foxes have done…

    • Our Suppression of Enemy Air Defense expertise is renowned among the joint force. We have a legacy of integrating with joint, coalition, and 5th generation platforms and assets. We have relationships with the MIT Lincoln Labs and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

    • Our decade-old Active Association is the benchmark for Total Force Integration (TFI)—so much so that the United States Army is interested in learning how we have made it work. At McEntire, TFI really means Total Force Integrated.

    • We have been actively engaged domestically and overseas. Swamp Fox Airmen are on status 24/7/365 to respond to any threat in the Southeast CONUS at a moment’s notice. In recent years, the Swamp Foxes have been active in five of the six Geographic Combatant Commands (CENTCOM, EUCOM, PACOM, NORTHCOM, and SOUTHCOM).

  • Ready Now – New Aircraft and New Mission…

    • McEntire is ready to bed down the F-35 at minimal cost to the taxpayer.

    • The 169 FW is leading the way in modernization of the F-16 to bridge the gap between 4th and 5th Generation of fighter capabilities.

    • We are ideally suited for expanded mission whether it be expansion of Agile Combat Support in the form of a RED HORSE unit or creating another, much-needed SILVER FLAG capability for the civil engineering enterprise.

    • We are ready to expand into the space and cyber warfighting domains and can readily partner with the Army National Guard’s recently formed 125th Cyber Protection Battalion.

With inspection season behind us and the holidays upon us, your leadership is taking active measures to limit our operations tempo before we start spinning up next spring to send the Aviation Package back into combat and our next round of Agile Combat Support tasking late next year. I am truly humbled to be among the exceptional men and women who make up the Swamp Fox Team.  I thank you and your families for your dedicated commitment and considerable sacrifices for our Great State and Nation.

 

Semper Primus!