Delaware Air Guard increases unit personnel level above 90 percent due to recruiting drive and influx of Airmen from Willow Grove, Pa. air base

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Delaware Air National Guard
Headquarters, 166th Airlift Wing
2600 Spruance Drive
New Castle, DE 19720-1615 

Note: Media invited to come to base Sunday to interview Airmen; call for other arrangements 

Photographs: available upon request of Airmen who have joined the unit from Willow Grove, Pa.

Contact: Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Matwey
Public Affairs Specialist, 166th Airlift Wing
Cell 302-593-2126, or office 302-323-3369
Release No. 2007-04-01
April 11, 2007


NEW CASTLE, Delaware - Just over two years ago the Delaware Air National Guard began an effort to rebuild personnel strength that had waned during the first few years after 9/11/01 and the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While the unit has met all of their federal and state obligations unit membership had slipped after nearly five years of member activations and extended overseas combat deployments, plus many Airmen reaching retirement age. Leadership took action to reverse the trend.

A new recruiting effort, dubbed Operation Full Strength, begun in 2005, has raised manning levels six percent to 91 percent, returning the unit to personnel levels last seen eight years ago. The unit, now with 990 Airmen, has attracted as many people in the last six months as they normally attract in a single year.

The Delaware Air Guard is also benefiting from the closure of an Air Force Reserve unit in Pennsylvania.

So far this year one-third of new recruits have come from a Willow Grove, Pa. reserve wing that is due to close this summer, and for the current fiscal year 50 percent of new recruits are projected to transfer to the Delaware Air National Guard from the Air Force Reserve 913th Airlift Wing in Willow Grove.

Increased manning levels are a significant help to performing the base mission. "With more part-time people in the unit, we have less of a strain on Airmen, their families and their civilian employers. Having more Airmen means we can give people a break so some do not have to deploy on missions as often as they might if we had fewer people," said Col. Dan Van Wyk, Vice Commander of the 166th Airlift Wing.

At the April 14-15 weekend unit training drill in New Castle there will be 35 new recruits attending who have just transferred from the Air Force Reserve 913th Airlift Wing in Willow Grove. The Willow Grove reserve wing is closing Sept. 30, 2007 due to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, and the reserve Airmen have until this Aug. 31 to transfer to another unit or leave the military.

While the Department of Defense also targeted the New Castle air base for realignment in May of the 2005 BRAC round, the Delaware base ultimately survived intact and was not impacted by BRAC. But with ongoing wartime missions and then Hurricane Katrina relief missions, the unit had to focus on real-world missions and working with Delaware's Governor and congressional delegation to communicate with the BRAC Commission, and for much of 2005 the recruiting effort was a second priority.

"As soon as we survived the BRAC round and did our part to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief missions, we decided to put more effort into doing what we have always done best for 60 years - telling the community our story. We inform prospective recruits what they can expect if they join this military unit, what they gain as individuals, and what the community, state and nation gains from them," said Brig. Gen. Hugh Broomall, Assistant Adjutant for Air, Delaware National Guard. "We built on what is a natural local community partnership between our more than 500 part-time members and the employers, schools and civic organizations throughout Delaware and the surrounding region, in addition to our over 400 full-time members who also participate in many community activities."

Willow Grove Airmen chose to come to the Delaware Air National Guard for several reasons.

Many of the Willow Grove Airmen are inclined to continue serving to complete 20 years service which earns them a military pension at age 60. For many people the New Castle base is a closer commute. New Castle, Delaware is 50 miles from Willow Grove, Pa., and closer than military bases in Harrisburg, Pa. or even McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. For others the decision was influenced by the fact that since the Delaware unit flies the C-130H Hercules transport -- the same aircraft that the Willow Grove reserve unit flies -- the work transition is easy because the aircraft is familiar to aircraft maintainers and aircrew.

Transferring from the Air Force Reserve to the Air National Guard was made easier. The National Guard Bureau is working with the Air Force Reserve to expedite transfers from the Reserve to the ANG. And, the Delaware unit pays for Airmen to stay in local hotels who have to commute more than about 100 miles, making monthly weekend service easier for Airmen and their families.

"We love to see these new Airmen here. We think they gain by continuing their preference to serve in uniform, to build retirement credit and even to take advantage of military funded education. The Delaware Air Guard and United States Air Force gain by keeping these professional Airmen performing the jobs they are highly trained to perform," said Gen. Broomall.

Aircrew and maintenance crew from the Delaware unit reached out to Willow Grove by attending a two-day career fair in January sponsored by Willow Grove leadership. Dozens of Delaware Airmen traveled with base recruiters and personnel specialists to Willow Grove to talk face-to-face with hundreds of Willow Grove Airmen about their individual experience in the Delaware Air Guard.

"We look for quality people, the kind of people motivated by the chance to serve their state, community and nation, to become well-trained and assist on humanitarian missions such as our Hurricane Katrina relief missions to the Gulf Coast in 2005, to support border security missions to the American Southwest, or to serve on combat missions in Southwest Asia and Europe," said Col. Van Wyk. "We'd like to think that patriotic individuals who care and expect excellence in themselves would consider joining us."

Throughout the unit's 60 year history, commanders have gotten behind various recruiting drives to engage the community so people know the types of part-time job opportunities the Air Guard unit offers.

Delaware Air National Guard manning levels 1989 to 2007:

1989 - 94.9%
1990 - 94.7% - Operation Desert Shield
1991 - 92.2% - Operation Desert Storm
1992 - 95.2%
1993 - 97.5%
1994 - 91.3%
1995 - 93.5%
1996 - 91.1%
1997 - 90.7%
1998 - 90.9%
1999 - 91.9%
2000 - 89.7%
2001 - 89.4% -- 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks; launch of Operation Enduring Freedom
2002 - 89.3%
2003 - 84.7% -- launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom
2004 - 84.9%
Feb 2005 -- 84.96 % - launch of recruiting drive named "Operation Full Strength" in Delaware Air Guard
Jun 2005 -- 86.8 %
Feb 2006 - 90.0 %
April 10, 2007 -- 91.3 %; with 990 Airmen in the unit (91.3 percent of the authorized unit strength of 1,084 Airmen)

Recent recruits and where they come from:

Oct. 1, 2006 to April 10, 2007:
Gained 98 new recruits, with 35 of these 98 recruits (or 35 percent) coming from Willow Grove for the first six months of fiscal year 2007.

For the remainder of this fiscal year 120 additional recruits are projected to join the unit, with about 75 Airmen coming from Willow Grove from April 11 to Sept. 30, 2007.
For all of fiscal year 2007, of the nearly 220 total anticipated new recruits, about 110 of these, or 50 percent, are projected to come from Willow Grove, all experienced prior service Airmen who have completed basic training and technical school, and who can immediately start being productive in their assigned job duties.

Projected manning level: 95 percent by Sept. 2007, the end of the current fiscal year
Plan: reach 100 percent as soon as possible in fiscal year 2008 that begins Oct. 1, 2007

This release is in the public domain, and any part may be used as written.

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