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Guard, Reserve integrate seamlessly into Nellis organization

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN) -- Organizations at the Air Warfare Center here are taking the concept, “One Team, One Fight,” literally and are combining active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command personnel in all mission areas.

“This is a smarter, better way of doing business, because we’re able to capitalize on the unique experience levels and stability that guardsmen and reservists bring to the fight,” said Col. Peter McCaffrey, AWFC Reserve advisor. “By combining all three components into a single unit, we are able to better leverage the unique strengths of each component for a fully integrated fighting force.”

Future Total Force initiatives will enable the Air Force to meet the challenges of the next several decades with a smaller, more capable, more experienced and more agile force.

Since Operation Desert Storm the active-duty force has decreased in size by 40 percent while world-wide contingency demands have increased by more than 400 percent, according to Air Force Chief of Staff General John P. Jumper. He challenged senior Air Force leaders to develop innovative ways to leverage different capabilities to effectively meet the changes of the 21st century.

“The buzzword for this decade is integration,” he said in a December 2003 speech to the Air Force Defense Strategy and Transformation Forum.

At the AWFC, integration is in full after-burner. Guardsmen and reservists are currently serving in nearly every unit.

“By combining all three components, we can improve our combat capability while maximizing economies of scale in experience, stability and cost savings, Colonel McCaffrey said. "Integration will also provide new, relevant opportunities for both the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard.”

This innovative concept was identified by former Air Force Secretary James G. Roche as the “crown jewel of tomorrow’s Air Force.”

Beginning in 2002, the AWFC has integrated guardsmen and reservists throughout the organization.

According to Col. Terry Fornof, AWFC Air National Guard adviser, 65 Nevada Air National Guard positions were recently authorized to support MQ-1 Predator operations at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

“These folks are working in every aspect of the Predator mission to include combat operations, training and tactics development," he said. “This is a paradigm shift and we realize that this hasn’t been attempted before. We’re enthused about being on the leading edge of change for the Air Force. We can now capitalize on the expertise, maturity and stability of our (air reserve component) forces.”

Examples include, but are not limited to reserve forces serving as members of the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School, the 64th Aggressor Squadron, Red Flag and tactics development and test, to name a few.

In an Air Force “first,” an Air Force Reserve officer was selected to command one of three active-duty Predator squadrons, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, which is made up of all active-duty Airmen.

“We’re changing the way things are being done,” Colonel McCaffrey said. "Reservists are in jobs that formerly were closed to them. At the prestigious Fighter Weapons School, where the best of the best teach the best, two reservists serve as instructors in the F-16 Fighting Falcon division and F-15E Strike Eagle division. That’s a major paradigm shift from previous thinking and a testament to the quality of our reservists.”

Colonel McCaffrey said that the Air Force Aggressors, currently flying F-16s, soon will have F-15 Eagles to replicate advanced air-to-air enemy threats. The air reserve component members will be an integral part of the Aggressors, flying, maintaining and supporting both F-16 and F-15 aircraft.

Colonel McCaffrey said that the FTF changes occurred first in the Predator units. The 11th RS is one of three Predator squadrons and is commanded by Lt. Col. John Breeden, an Air Force Reserve officer. He is the first reservist trained as a Predator pilot and graduate of the USAF Weapons School.

“We train Predator aircrews for combat squadrons,” Colonel Breeden said. “We have averaged turning out 45 aircrews per year for the past three years. In fiscal year 2006, we expect to graduate 105 aircrews and in fiscal year 2007, that number will grow to120 aircrews.”

AWFC jobs are both full-time and part-time. Colonel Fornof explained that part-time guardsmen and reservists will do their training during the week instead of a weekend, the usual practice for most traditional Guard and Reserve units.

“We will still deploy and will be part of the (air and space) expeditionary force rotation.”

Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, AWFC commander, cites this leading-edge integration program as in line with AWFC practices.

“Nellis serves as the benchmark by which all others measure, provides the expertise by which all others seek, and provides standards by which all others aspire. Therefore, it should be no surprise that we will lead the way on this initiative.”

“This integration improves our combat capabilities through maintaining the experience we previously lost when top performers separated. In this new program, we all win; we’re one team focused on the same mission,” Colonel Fornof said.