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Total Force integration a reality at Fairchild

FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. -- Since the Nixon administration first directed that Reserve and Active forces would work together as a "Total Force" military leaders have been working to define how best to achieve that goal.

Originally it meant that reserve forces would get the same quality equipment and training as their active counterparts. Reserves were expected to step in when their country needed them at a moments notice.

Now the next, and perhaps final, phase of the transition is underway that began in the 1970's. Air National Guard units are taking proactive roles around the globe to relieve the operations-tempo strain on active duty units.

Since the advent of the Global War on Terror, active duty personnel have been operating at a break-neck tempo for five years. Active duty units are performing combat missions in the Middle East while continuing to fulfill their normal training and operations taskings. The Air National Guard will play a vital role as a Total Force partner in reducing the operations tempo by absorbing a number of taskings and deployments.

Guard members bring expertise to bear in a new way - they will work and deploy along with active duty counterparts as part of a combined Total Force. Today the 141st Air Refueling Wing is working shoulder to shoulder with the 92nd Air Refueling Wing thousands of miles from home at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan.

The Nebraska Air Guard is also participating. Their mission is to deliver air refueling support for the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan. The units are collectively assigned to the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. "The key to success is our ability to support continuous rotations," said Col. Gary T. Magonigle, 141st ARW commander. "We see this as a template for the future."

"We typically send a three-person flight crew and three crew chiefs along with one of our aircraft," said Lt. Col. Michael J. "Pappy" Boyington.

The crews get two weeks of effective flying time plus a few days for travel and acclimatization. Colonel Boyington said he volunteered because he wanted to contribute to the overall war on terror. "The flying experience was reminiscent of the ‘over the hump' missions in World War II," said Colonel Boyington. "Within forty miles of the base we were flying over 15,000 foot mountains in the western edge of the Himalayas.

"We flew nine sorties into Afghanistan," said Colonel Boyington. "We were fueling A-10's that were providing close-in ground support for convoys."

A common Taliban tactic is to stop a convoy with a roadside explosive device, then attack with ground troops. "When they hear the A-10 coming, they generally scatter," said Colonel Boyington.

Another mission fueled a bomber twice, first with a full load of bombs and later without. "It was a real eye-opener for me," said Tech Sgt. Joe Huddleston, 141st ARW crew chief. "We saw Army troops getting ready to go into Afghanistan. I had no idea of the extent of Afghan involvement because it's not covered by the media."

Both Sergeant Huddleston and Tech. Sgt. Michael Jackson, also a 141st ARW crew chief, believe their experience compliments the work of the younger active troops.

"Those active duty guys were really hardworkers," said Sergeant Jackson. "Most guard troops started on the active duty side, so our youngest maintainers already have years of experience and that experience really pays off."