MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Greetings Swamp Fox! As always, I am grateful to every one of you for your continued service and all that you do for our state and nation. It seems every time it is my turn to write a column there is energy around our Domestic Operations (DOMOPS) mission. If you are new to the wing or the Air National Guard, a quick primer: being a Guardsman means you have a dual mission, federal and state. We prepare every drill for our federal mission to deploy in support of national security interests but our second, and no less important role is to the governor and the citizens of our great state. This mission is what makes the National Guard special as it connects us to our communities like no other military force can claim. Because those we aim to protect are precious to us, we must train for this separate and distinct mission as ardently as we train to go to war.
As you all know we have had several years in a row of major weather-related events that have called out the National Guard (Army or Air) to support the citizens of South Carolina. Over that period, the 169th Fighter Wing has been instrumental in helping to prevent the destruction of property, recovery efforts to affected areas, and most importantly, the saving of lives in areas at risk. Each year/event brings a new challenge that requires the Air National Guard to re-think how it employs forces and equipment to support this effort. I won’t rehash the way we were involved in past years as many have written about those efforts, but rather provide some brief words on our future approach.
After Hurricane Michael last fall, I began to evangelize to my troops and leadership the concept of “Hurricane AEF”. Every year, hurricane season begins on 1 June and ends 1 November. This is the period when we are most vulnerable to ‘attack’ and therefore most likely to activate in support of a hurricane/rain caused emergency. Our Airmen at Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) recently conducted a series of training events and planning sessions over March UTA to solidify the SCANG response, a first of its kind in many years. Even though this event had been planned for a while, its timing was especially fortuitous. In a recent visit to McEntire during the March four-day exercise, our new Adjutant General, Major General R. Van McCarty, asked the commanders assembled about our ability to expand our DOMOPS experiences and contributions. His questions revolved around the tremendous capabilities the Airmen of this wing can bring to bear against our enemies, to include the natural ones. We must all begin to internalize where each of us potentially fit into the plan our leadership sets for the wing. Regardless of AFSC, you can be ordered to State Active Duty to support the community at any time for this critical mission. In light of this fact, I offer a few thoughts:
1. Be Prepared. Don’t let your family incur even more risk if you are activated to support a DOMOPS contingency. The S.C. Emergency Management Division (www.scemd.org) has some great resources to prepare us for these events. Additionally, have your gear ready. Many items are issued at activation, but it would be wise to think about what gear you own (flashlights, carabineers, better sleeping bags, etc.) that could be useful if you end up sleeping in a gym in another county.
2. Know Your (Modified) Job. This is not just mastering your AFSC specific duties but also how those skills can integrate with local forces in an emergency. The civilian forces we merge with, usually have a different culture and execution-style than our military sisters and brothers.
3. Commit. This is the other half your dual mission as a Guardsman. It is not an afterthought. Our families, friends, and neighbors need the support of the National Guard during these trying times. We must all internalize this into our approach to being ready ‘to deploy’ just like we have for so many years in AORs across the world.