January Commander's Corner
By Col. Nicholas Gentile, 169th Fighter Wing/CV
/ Published December 30, 2014
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- "For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security." - Thomas Jefferson
On Friday, 12 Dec, we celebrated the 378th birthday of the National Guard. For an Airman, this might be mildly interesting, but as a South Carolina Guardsman, whether full-time or a drill-status Guardsman (DSG for short), this heritage and the importance of our state's militia and the contributions to our nation's defense, make this a noteworthy date. I will not regale you with S.C. militia tradition or our state's impressive ANG heritage (since 1946), but the "Swamp Fox" has defended our freedoms dating back to before the revolutionary timeframe and continuing today in Europe, the Pacific, South America and the Middle East.
For those that don't know me, I have been a proud Swamp Fox and DSG since 1999 and performed tours at U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT), S.C. Joint Force Headquarters and the Air National Guard Readiness Center before being invited back to serve as your vice commander. It is truly an honor to return to the Swamp Fox and have an opportunity to serve the most combat-capable Airmen in the U.S. Air Force. Most recently, I served up in D.C. as the Chief, Operational Plans and Execution, National Guard Bureau. Through my time up there, one of the things that stood out was the special place the 169th Fighter Wing holds in the ANG and USAF, to include the Halls of the Pentagon. The Swamp Fox is unlike any other ANG unit. You are a group of exceptional USAF Guardsmen and Associates that have one of the highest and most successful deployment rates in the USAF F-16 community. The legacy of this wing's superior performance is recognized world-wide. The Swamp Fox wins every contest they enter and can deploy more iron for longer duration than any other ANG unit. I was told on more than one occasion from Air Combat Command (ACC), that if every ANG fighter wing could be a "McEntire," ACC would have a lot fewer issues. Even recently, an AFCENT leader mentioned to me that "the Swamp Fox" really impressed them during the Southwest Asia AEF deployment last spring. Senior leaders commented on our professionalism, condition of our equipment and aircraft, our maintenance rates and the manner in which we overcame every obstacle that other F-16 units struggled with. The 169th FW is truly a special place with a proud history of superior performance and the will, motivation and training to ensure the Swamp Fox is prepared and ready to continue the tradition of excellence.
Speaking of deploying, there are major deployment changes upon us. The USAF is transitioning into a new deployment model, "AEF Next." AEF Next is primarily focused on ACS (Agile Combat Support) forces. ACS is a term used to describe the support career fields outside of operations and maintenance and comprises about half of our deployable ANG manpower. ANG ACS will provide a more significant support force to our expeditionary USAF in 2016 and beyond as part of the ANG "All In" initiative and our continued evolution as an operational reserve force.
Additionally, the ANG is embracing a new involuntary activation authority that Congress made law in the 2012 NDAA. FY 2016 (Oct '15) will be the first full year of USAF usage of this new model and authority. The new authority is called "U.S.C. 12304b," or "12304b" for short. This new authority allows reserve forces to be mobilized involuntarily for deployments for preplanned (non-contingency) rotational requirements (like Theater Security Packages) or longer term exercise/engagement usage in support of a combatant command (COCOM) requirement. This is the first time it has been possible to mobilize Reservists for peacetime missions and continue meeting global requirements with a reserve force. The good news is that ANG Airmen will have employment protections as they are being involuntarily mobilized and will not be "redeployable" for five times the length of their orders, also known as dwell time. So, for a 180-day deployment, Airmen will get 221 days of orders (muster, travel, leave, downtime, etc.) and will not be able to be involuntarily mobilized for three-and-a-half years after their return. Similar math applies for 90-days, 45-days, etc.
Volunteerism is not dead, though. Instead of 75% of requirements being filled by Air Guardsmen in a voluntarily mobilized status (12301d) like we used to, that number will decrease significantly, with 75% being involuntarily mobilized under either 12304b or 12302 (OEF-Afghanistan.) The plan is that employer protections, deployment credit and a scheduled deployment period will simplify Air Guardsmen's lives. Each ANG wing will have a scheduled six-month deployment window in which a more substantial number of Airmen in support AFSC's will be mobilized while leaving enough personnel to operate the wing and ACA alert missions. The wing won't all go to the same location or hemisphere, but they will be in the window together. Additionally, Airmen may volunteer for deployments outside of their assigned window, but will not be involuntarily mobilized as it will impact the wing's ability to later use that Airman within their assigned window every four years. As a note, not all deployments will be for 180-days. Some will be for shorter windows from 45 to 120-days. Bottom line, this will be a different way of utilizing the ANG, but the 169th FW will stay fully engaged and ensure the Swamp Fox stays prepared, trained and equipped. Thanks for all you do every day for the Swamp Fox and thanks for your continued drive to be the best in the USAF.