|ANG Director Sees Evolution of Organization|
ANG Director Sees Evolution of Organization
By Master Sgt. Rick Burnham, Air Force Print News.
Washington D.C. – (AFPN) October 24, 2002 -- At first glance, the Air National Guard of today bears little resemblance to the early "militiamen" who were renowned for their ability to pick up a musket at a moment's notice and defend the homeland.
But, if you look deep inside the men and women who bear that burden at the onset of the 21st century, you'll find the same volunteer spirit and pride made famous in Concord and Lexington. And that, said the man at the helm of today's Air National Guard, is exciting.
"The tradition of the militiamen is engrained in the ANG," said Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, who became director of the organization in June. "Many of the folks who showed up in the first few hours after 9/11 were volunteers who were ready to contribute at a moment's notice. It goes back to the militiamen who dropped their plows or whatever else they were doing and picked up their muskets.
"The same thing happens with our modern day militiamen. That volunteer spirit is there, and by using the volunteers, we can keep the numbers of mobilized national guardsmen down."
At one point during the war on terrorism, the ANG had nearly 26,000 men and women on active duty, 7,000 of them volunteers, James said. Those people are at work at virtually every conceivable type of job, he added, from pilot and maintainer to intelligence and security.
"Diversity is the strength of the National Guardsman," he said. "Whether Army or Air, the diverse backgrounds and the unique skills our people bring to the table are remarkable. We bring every skill that the Air Force has across the board, from firefighters to intel personnel to civil engineers and security forces. We bring a whole spectrum of skills and talents to the table that makes us a very strong and viable contributor to the total force."
As a result of the yearlong war on terrorism, the general said, it is a total force that is experiencing a very high operations tempo -- the Air National Guard included.
"After 9/11, everything changed for everyone," he said. "But the operations tempo combined with the length of tours people are finding themselves on starts to stress an organization after a period of time."
One element of both the ANG and the active-duty force that is heavily taxed is security forces, the general said. He spoke of the dilemma Air Force leaders face in trying to lighten the load on security forces everywhere.
"Security forces are very highly motivated, but also highly needed," he said. "We are looking at the situation. we understand what our security forces are going through. We are looking for long-term solutions, and we're asking those in leadership positions in security forces at both the major command and local levels to put their heads together and come up with some viable ways that we can relieve some of the stress of the situation."
Fortunately, he added, security forces, as well as other ANG men and women, have a strong support network at home and at their civilian jobs.
"Their families and employers they are a big part of the 'triad,'" he said. "There are three legs to the stool: the Guard members, their families and their employers. When any one of them gets out of balance, the triad doesn't function very well."
ANG officials are looking at ways to ensure that the system remains in tact, he said.
"We have (designed) a survey that is going out at the end of this month and part of next month," the general said. "It asks questions like 'How many times have you been mobilized?' 'Would you be willing to do it again?' 'Have you had any difficulties with your employer?' 'What is your family situation?' 'How many times have you been away from home?' and 'When is the last time you took a vacation?'"
The survey is designed to give Guard officials an indication of what the stress level the current operations tempo is putting on its people, James said. The information gathered will be put right to work, he added.
"We'll take that database and analyze it," he said. "Then we'll ask our folks to put together a strategic plan as to how and when and how often our folks can be used. That will give us the data we need to make some really good, sound decisions about the ANG's involvement and how well we take care of our families and our employers."
It is all part of the continuous evolution of the ANG, he said.
"We have evolved in terms of getting new equipment and in the roles we have played in," he said. "And we've also evolved in terms of the involvement of the missions overseas. There were times in the past when you could go to a Guard unit and you would very seldom deploy overseas and sometimes very seldom deploy outside your state. That is no longer the case. In fact, it is just the opposite. I would be surprised if anybody could spend two years in the National Guard today and not deploy outside of their state or outside the continental United States."
But, he said, one thing remains the same and always will. The spirit and dedication of the men and women who call themselves "Guardsman" remain an integral part of the organization.
"The core and the spirit and the potential for being a strong contributing force has always been there," he said. "We have changed and yet kept our identity as a responding force. We have evolved, and we continue to contribute."