By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (July 21, 2005) -- There will be no "gap" between the end of assigned missions for Air National Guard units and the beginning of their replacement missions.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on July 20, the director of Air Force plans and programs told legislators the service is working hard to find replacement missions for Air National Guard units that may lose their flying mission as a result of the current Base Realignment and Closure recommendations.
"We have a tough job ahead of us, establishing new missions for these areas," said Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood. "(But) we are committed not to gap between areas. If we have a unit that is going to lose its aircraft and transition to a new mission, we want to bring those aircraft down at the same rate we train for the new mission."
Some legislators said they feared that without the draw of an aircraft for local communities to rally around and for potential Airmen to be interested in, it would be difficult to retain existing guardsmen and to recruit new ones. But General Wood said the Air Force is more than just airplanes, and said he hoped existing Guardsmen would be willing to participate in new, critical missions.
"The Air Force is more than flying aircraft," he said. "We are a space force. We are a cyber force. There are new, engaging missions out there that we need to prepare for the future. It is our hope that these outstanding Airmen transition to these new jobs."
In recommendations to BRAC commissioners, Air Force officials have asked to close some Guard and active-duty bases. Other selected bases are recommended for realignment -- existing missions may be lost altogether or moved to other bases. In some locations, new missions would be brought in to replace missions lost.
The Air Force plan to realign missions and organizations is outlined in the service's Future Total Force concept. The conceptís aim is to strengthen the Air Force by creating synergies between active duty and reserve component units.
"(This) involves change, and we all know change isn't easy," General Wood said. "The Air Force is facing incredible challenges today, and the path we take now will shape our collective shared future."
The general said the Future Total Force plan includes two key aspects. First is a change to the force structure. This involves a plan to divest the service of older aircraft and replace them with newer aircraft. One such newer aircraft is the F/A-22 Raptor.
The second part of the FTF plan involves changing the organizational structure of the total Air Force. The "total force" includes active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. These changes will involve the pairing of active duty units with reserve component units to help maximize the benefits that each brings to the fight.
While General Wood said the total force has already been working together for most of the Air Force's history, he expects FTF to yield even greater results.
"Under our plan we will take this integration to the next level by expanding both the scope and the number of associate units using the lessons learned over the past 40 years," he said. "We will see the experience of our young active duty airmen Ö grow significantly under the mentoring of skilled Air National Guard maintenance experts."