Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Wyatt talks with Delaware Guard troops about changing mission sets, force structure shifts and the fiscal picture

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Matwey
  • Delaware Air National Guard
Over four hundred Airmen and Soldiers who lead the Delaware National Guard assembled in Dover, Del. on Jan. 7 during the organization's annual Senior Leaders' Call. The troops looked in the rear-view mirror at the year just completed and scanned the horizon to get a fix on several aspects of the changing terrain as it begins to unfold in 2012.

The end of U.S. military operations in Iraq with Delaware Guard troops departing just before Christmas, and continuing operations in Afghanistan were reviewed. The state's commander-in-chief, Gov. Jack Markell, summarized his recent trip to the combat zone with stops in Kuwait and Afghanistan in late 2011 where he met with Delaware Guard Airmen and Soldiers in their work centers and at a forward operating base. The change in the command of the Delaware ANG from Brig. Gen. John Wayne Merritt, retiring after 43 years of service, to the first female Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Brig. Gen. Carol Timmons, was highlighted, with Gen. Merritt's service praised. And, the recent appointment of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Craig McKinley, to a permanent statutory seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also discussed, and how that seat will give the National Guard more influence for such concerns as how the Guard will be used for non-mobilized operations that occur frequently in the U.S.

The top leaders of the Army and Air National Guard addressed the audience; ANG Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. "Bud" Wyatt III and Army National Guard Director Army Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram, Jr.

Understanding the national climate in respect to the military budget was of high interest to the troops, with discussion centered on the proposed large-scale changes in the military budget announced by the president two days earlier, and how this may impact the Delaware National Guard. On Jan. 5 the president outlined the Defense Strategic Review, which he said was focused on the force needed for the future after a decade of war, "beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." The president's proposed budget will be announced on Feb. 6 and sent to Congress for deliberation in the spring and summer.

General Wyatt gave his insight on changes occurring in the Air Force, the budget process taking shape inside and outside Washington, D.C., and the impact on the ANG.

"Keep on doing what you're doing," said Gen. Wyatt, after watching the Delaware National Guard year-in-review video and listening to remarks from Delaware Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala. "But get out of this room and tell your story," his words echoing the refrain also heard over the last two years from NGB Chief Gen. McKinley, as well as ANG Command Chief Master Sgt. Chris Muncy. Gen. Wyatt underscored that all Airmen and units need to tell our stories to the local community so the American public knows the contributions and value of the National Guard to their community, state and nation. "We are a grassroots organization, with decisions made at the grass roots level."

General Wyatt discussed the value of the ANG to America, talking about the bargain to taxpayers and the accessibility of the ANG to meet the needs of our citizens and nation.

He said that 66 of 89 ANG wings reside on civilian airports, giving the Air Guard access to $12 billion in community infrastructure and services for $120 million per year. "That is the value of community basing," said Gen. Wyatt.

In terms of personnel costs, Gen. Wyatt said a value ratio of four-to-one has been calculated in favor of the annual costs to maintain one ANG Guardsmen versus the higher cost of an active duty Airman, and that the value to taxpayers of an Air Guardsman was even higher if benefits were included. He said that the cost of an Air Guardsman was 10 percent of an active duty counterpart if you include retirement. "An active duty Airman gets full retirement after 20 years of service, while the ANG gets it at age 60."

Bottom line, said Gen. Wyatt, is that "The best value for American airpower is the National Guard."

To go along with the dollar value to the nation's taxpayers, Gen. Wyatt talked about the accessibility of the ANG, highlighting the constant 20 years and counting support for overseas contingency operations that the ANG has maintained. "The Air Guard never came home after Desert Storm One," said Gen. Wyatt.

"Last year we answered the call 55,783 times," said Gen. Wyatt, pointing out that the ANG met that many requests for people, whether it was a request for one person for 365 days, or one person on a one day order. "And 89.5 percent were volunteers - they were not mobilized."

The general described the accessibility process in three steps.

First, he said there needs to be the statutory authority to access the guard, "which we have," said Gen. Wyatt.

Second, he said there must be internal policies in the DoD that allow access, which he said were in place. He said Air Force rules about requiring 30-days notice to get a Guardsman on active orders is not an ANG policy, and that use of the ANG in shorter-term OCONUS operations, such as Haiti earthquake relief missions seen two years ago, while not done at the time, is entirely feasible and permitted, and something the state National Guard units would be happy to do and competent doing. He pointed out the recent experience with Hurricane Irene, and how Guardsmen answered the call within a few days. "We'd like 180-days notice" for overseas combat operations, said Gen. Wyatt, because of the need to coordinate with families and employers for our traditional force.

Third, having sufficient military personnel appropriations, otherwise known as MPA days. "We need to wean ourselves off of OCO [overseas contingency operations] funded MPA days," said Gen. Wyatt, and focus on other effective means of funding our personnel in operations.

General Wyatt said that after all the negotiations and proposals were made in the Pentagon, the changing budget landscape would result in a shift in the force structure from the ANG to the active duty, with a shift of anywhere from four to five percent of the fighters and the same percentage of airlift going to the active duty. In total, Gen. Wyatt indicated that up to 10 percent of the fleet of 1,071 ANG aircraft may be taken out of the ANG inventory, stating that older airframes would be the most vulnerable, and that "we [ANG] have the older aircraft."

General Wyatt said about 25 percent of the force structure changes most detrimental to the ANG were mitigated.

Looking ahead, Gen. Wyatt said he foresaw several changes in this year and even further down the road. First, he expected a likely increase in active associations, mentioning that this was one of the Delaware Guard's longer range plans. Second, an increase in cyber units within both the active and the reserve components, while pointing out that Delaware has worked for several years to establish their cyber unit. Third, reductions in the C-130 Hercules transport fleet, especially older aircraft.

General Wyatt talked about the future for the 166th Airlift Wing through his lens, and said that the wing was into mission sets with the potential to grow, such as cyber, but would maybe not grow in 2013. "The Air Force is changing from platform-centric to capability-centric," said Gen. Wyatt.

In the ANG breakout, Gen. Wyatt talked about those things that get attention in the wrong way in the Air Force and inside the Pentagon.

For Air Force inspections, he said that "a marginal gets attention," in compliance inspections. Gen. Wyatt advised wings to "hit the books" when they prepare for inspections. He also raised the need for constant vigilance in terms of integrity as it related to fiscal matters at the unit and individual level, for matters large and small. "Let's not forget the core value that made us strong in the past."

One officer asked a question about manpower levels in the medical field. Gen. Wyatt said that there will be no more people assigned to that field, but we had to "move manpower to missions." He segued to resourcing, and said, "I don't know of any unit 100 percent resourced," saying that many units are resourced around the mid-80 percentile. "We've got to fix our broken glass," said Gen. Wyatt, "and move manpower to states that need it, to missions that are resourced by the Air Force."

He talked about how in the American system of government deliberations, finality does not occur inside the halls of the Pentagon, but through the connection with the community at the grass roots level, and that Congress gets the final say. He emphasized that during this period of change and concern, people in the field are the key to telling our ANG story, and that for us, "Our Airmen give us the credibility."

Using history as a guide, Gen. Wyatt said the Guard was at its best when there are big challenges. "375 years ago, the National Guard was formed," said Gen. Wyatt, as units from the North, the East and the South came to the aid of the new American colonies. "They had no resources. What saved Massachusetts and the country in 1776 was the National Guard - when you need us, you call us and we are there. We are the solution."