Weekend-duty: Total Force Integration more than a buzz phrase at Offutt
By 2nd Lt. Drew Nystrom, Nebraska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters
/ Published August 06, 2018
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
Innovation, which increases readiness, reduces costs, returns time back to Airmen and increases lethality, doesn’t have to involve software upgrades, new weapon systems or a rewrite of a regulation.
Members of Team Offutt recently proved this when, for the first time, a RC-135V/W Rivet Joint flew a weekend training sortie with a flight and mission crew comprised almost exclusively of Airmen from the reserve components Aug. 5, 2018, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
The sortie was planned specifically to generate readiness, time and cost benefits while capitalizing on their inactive-duty training commitments.
“This is an example of Total Force Integration being done right,” said Nebraska Air National Guard Lt. Col. Mike Holdcroft, 170th Operational Support Squadron commander and aircraft commander for the sortie. “Typical training missions are flown during the week and, for our traditional ANG and Air Force Reserve members, in order to maintain skill currency, they have to ask for a little more flexibility than normal from their employers, especially, if they aren’t local.”
Total Force Integration aims to improve the Air Force's ability to conduct its mission through the sharing of resources between active duty and the reserve components, including aircraft, crews, maintenance, and support.
All maintenance support, from prepping the jet to launching, for the weekend mission was accomplished by active-duty Airmen from the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
According to Nebraska ANG Capt. Mandy Whitney, a 238th Combat Training Squadron electronic warfare officer, it isn’t unusual for a 55th Wing rainbow crew – a team of Airmen gathered from different components, squadrons or bases – to include a mix of active-duty, ANG or Reserve Airmen.
However, a rainbow crew consisting almost exclusively of Citizen Airmen flying during their regularly scheduled drill is much more unusual.
During this historic sortie, 25 of the 27 crew members were either Guard or Reserve Airmen.
“Our aircraft are constantly being updated, so it's important for reserve component Airmen to fly as often as possible,” Whitney said. “Usually that means flying with an active-duty crew during the week, sometimes as the only Guard or Reserve member, and having to coordinate with civilian employers to stay current. By flying over the weekend it alleviates that coordination and allows reserve component Airmen to come together as a crew.”
The opportunity to fly a weekend sortie was welcomed by reservist Tech. Sgt. Ashley Gloria, 49th Intelligence Squadron member.
“I love serving,” Gloria said, “but I miss about 40 more days annually at my civilian job than a typical reservist would to keep current in my flying skillset because the training flights normally happen during the week. This is a great way to make my obligation to the Air Force less stressful.”
All Airmen make a commitment to their nation, but reserve component Airmen face the additional challenge of maintaining balance in three areas of their lives: family, civilian employer, and Air Force career – otherwise known as the Triad.
“With today’s flight a success and the awesome support of the 55th Wing leadership, we’re aiming to continue this synergy going forward and conduct these types of training missions more often,” Holdcroft said. “All Airmen are committed to serving, but if we can take a better approach to enabling our Citizen Airmen – while increasing readiness; giving them and their employer some time back; and increasing our lethality – it’s a win for the Air Force.”