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Upcoming CRE tests SCANG Airmen

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., don their gas masks in response to a simulated chemical attack during a Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., don their gas masks in response to a simulated chemical attack during a Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force maintenance personnel with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., don their gas masks in response to a simulated chemical attack on the flight line during a Phase II Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment.  
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force maintenance personnel with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., don their gas masks in response to a simulated chemical attack on the flight line during a Phase II Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, assigned to a Post Attack Reconnaissance team for the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., conduct PAR checks after a simulated chemical attack on the flight line during a Phase II Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment.  
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, assigned to a Post Attack Reconnaissance team for the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., conduct PAR checks after a simulated chemical attack on the flight line during a Phase II Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., read their Airman's Manual, while wearing full mission oriented protective posture gear, during a Phase II Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment.  
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., read their Airman's Manual, while wearing full mission oriented protective posture gear, during a Phase II Readiness Exercise, April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Bridgers, commander of the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, tends to the wounds of U.S. Air Force recruit Duwan Hester, a new South Carolina Air National Guard member assigned to the 169th Student Flight, during the 169th Fighter Wing Readiness Exercise, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Bridgers, commander of the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, tends to the wounds of U.S. Air Force recruit Duwan Hester, a new South Carolina Air National Guard member assigned to the 169th Student Flight, during the 169th Fighter Wing Readiness Exercise, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. William Floyd, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing of the South Carolina Air National Guard, reads his Airman's Manual during a simulated chemical attack during the 169th Fighter Wing Readiness Exercise, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. William Floyd, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing of the South Carolina Air National Guard, reads his Airman's Manual during a simulated chemical attack during the 169th Fighter Wing Readiness Exercise, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., April 12, 2013. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are preparing for a Phase I and II Readiness Inspection, which evaluates a unit's ability to deploy, then operate and launch missions in a chemical combat environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- The South Carolina Air National Guard will test its mettle again later this summer with a five-day Certified Readiness Exercise scheduled to run Sept. 7-11. The stakes are high and McEntire is again setting the stage for the Air Force to follow.

"Everyone is watching McEntire, including the chief of staff of the Air Force and the director of the National Guard Bureau," said Lt. Col. Lee Meares, 169th Fighter Wing CRE team leader. "We're the first unit to do a CRE, and how we do will set the standard for the Air Force going forward."

This CRE will save money and time for the Air Force. More importantly, it will validate to the DoD and Air Force, the Inspector General's vision to evolve their concept of unit self-inspections with IG oversight. It will be the wing's responsibility to prove that a unit can field an Exercise Evaluation Team that meets or exceeds the standards of a formal inspection to evaluate and test a wing's combat worthiness and expected capability.

"Bottom-line, it is the responsibility of the IG to validate a unit's combat readiness to the combatant commander in the operational theater," explained Meares.

Meares said this exercise will be run differently than in years past. This time the IG will send a smaller team to evaluate the wing and the EET as it self-grades the unit. There will not be an IG outbrief at the end of the CRE. Instead, the EET will send its report to the wing commander and the IG. The final score will come if they concur or non-concur with the EET's overall score for the Swamp Foxes.

The final grading authority for all inspection sub-areas and overall assessments will be provided by the IG. The EET will then be graded as a separate area for its overall performance. It may take several weeks before the final score is released. It's a different take on how previous inspections were run and in the age of Sequestration and reduced budgets, the Air Force is looking for ways to save.

With several large military construction projects starting soon and an upcoming deployment, 169th FW leadership was able to make the case for the new CRE inspection format. Coupled with budget constraints and the wing's superior past performance, the IG is allowing the EET to perform the evaluation.

"We, the SCANG EET, will ensure that this will be a legitimate inspection, relevant not only to the IG tasking, but also to our unit's combat tasking," Meares said. "We know where our weaknesses are and we know where to look. The upside is that we are your neighbors and available locally to help."

You may ask, what else is new with the CRE? The unit will see a greater emphasis placed on pilot performance which will evaluate them in contested and degraded operations scenarios. This will require pilots to complete their missions while certain capabilities are denied to them by the enemy. Equally important to understand is that each Airman has a role to play in the success of the wing during this CRE. The 169th FW has a tradition of developing conscientious, detail-oriented Airmen and will require that quality from all Swamp Foxes to succeed.

"Everything can be looked at by the EET and IG. Gone are the days of evaluating criteria that are specific only to an Operational Readiness or Unit Compliance Inspection," said Meares.

Meares' takeaways for success in July and September are Self-Aid and Buddy Care. Know it inside and out. Teach someone else your job and learn someone else's job. Adjust your commute times to anticipate delays caused by mandatory centralized parking and processing through in-check. Finally, everyone should think safety.

Because the Phase I portion of the inspection was eliminated, the wing will go right into a Phase II inspection. On day one, Airmen will in-process through in-check, go to their duty sections and pick up their chemical gear. The next day Airmen will go through in-check with their gear and must be ready to hit the ground running. Key dates to remember include the arrival of the IG on the seventh, aircraft acceptance on the eighth, the war on the ninth and tenth, with the last day scheduled for a weather backup and exercise cleanup day.

Meares explained the reason for the deletion of the Phase I inspection was because the wing has proven during the past five years that it can successfully deploy lethal capability anywhere in the world. The wing is very good at deploying and performing close-air support. However, the Phase II is very important because the unit hasn't performed much in combat air superiority, suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses or ability to survive and operate environments.

This CRE will lead to bigger and better things for the Swamp Foxes, added Meares. It will become the benchmark for the execution of future Air Force-wide inspections.

"Inspection performance continues to tell the generals that the unit in South Carolina is at the leading edge, and puts us on a short list to missions and new equipment," Meares said. "Attitude is everything. It's going to be a challenge, but it all comes down to attitude. As our motto states, we are 'Always First,' Semper Primus!"