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More teamwork, technology drive Air Force transformation

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Air Force officials will use more teamwork and technology in transforming the service into a more agile and efficient force for the 21st century, a senior Air National Guard officer said here Feb. 7.

The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard will stay very much a part of current and future Air Force missions, said Brig. Gen. Charles Ickes II, deputy director of the Air National Guard.

The Air National Guard has long worked in tandem with its active-duty and Reserve brethren, General Ickes said, as part of the Department of Defense’s total force concept. National Guard Airmen run 100 percent of the ground alert facilities as part of Operation Noble Eagle for homeland defense and security in the United States, he said.

All of the armed services have used their reserve components quite a bit in recent years especially supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, General Ickes said. Almost 50 percent of the U.S. forces in Iraq are members of the Guard or Reserve.

"That just shows (how much) the guardsmen and the reservists (have) stepped up," he said.

And since much of the Air Force's mission involves deploying and maintaining high-tech aircraft, General Ickes said there is a tight bond between active-duty, Guard and Reserve pilots, aircrews and mechanics.

That partnership will be expanded in coming years, he said, as part of the Air Force's Future Total Force initiative, where Guard and Reserve Airmen will train and serve alongside active duty Airmen while flying some of the most modern and sophisticated aircraft in the Air Force's inventory.

General Ickes said that the Air National Guard's 192nd Fighter Wing in Richmond, Va., which now has F-16 Fighting Falcons would soon move to Langley Air Force Base, Va., and become part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which will fly the new F/A-22 Raptor.

Almost 1,000 National Guard Airmen are expected to participate in the move from Richmond to Langley, General Ickes said, and they will train alongside their active-duty counterparts.

Another initiative, he said, involves sending 10 novice active-duty aircraft maintainers to the Air National Guard base in Burlington, Vt., for additional training conducted by seasoned Air Guard mechanics.

One project on tap has Guard and Reserve Airmen getting more involved in Predator unmanned aerial vehicle training, General Ickes said.

Potentially, there will be eight to 10 new Predator organizations established as a result of that training, he said, because the demand for UAVs.

Getting Guard and Reserve Airmen more involved in flying and maintaining high-tech aircraft like the F/A-22 and Predator, General Ickes said, is a force-multiplier that enhances Air Force and DOD transformation efforts.

However, General Ickes said he does not see the Air Force's reserve components being absorbed into the active component, because the Guard and Reserve each bring different strengths to the table.

General Ickes predicted that the Air Force's reserve components will become part of future DOD missions, as more Guard and Reserve Airmen integrate with their active counterparts to fly and maintain cutting-edge equipment.