Times are tough for the Air National Guard, but Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry "Bud" Wyatt III sees many "great" opportunities for his 106,700-member force to excel in the future.
"We know there is a mismatch right now of demands on the force and resources," said Wyatt, the director of the Air Guard. "I think it will get worse before it gets better, but I don't bring you a message of despair today.
"I bring you a message of hope and courage because I see great opportunity, because we are the most efficient force, the most capable force that we have ever been. The country can afford us before it can afford some other things that [it] is looking at."
Wyatt's question for senior Air Guard leaders from around the country is: "ANG 2025: Are We Ready?"
"Are we willing to make the tough choices that will posture us for the future?" he asked.
The Air Force announced that Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York is the preferred base for eight C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
"Through the next several months and years, there will many of these announcements," Wyatt said. "The questions will be: Are they the type of announcements that we as an organization can embrace and take forward and excel the way we have excelled in our missions in the past?"
Wyatt said the Air Guard should prepare for future demands now.
"We have got to start shaping that force today, to be ready to provide the force that this country needs in 2025," he said.
Wyatt said the Air Guard has seen "significant change" over the last decade.
Airmen who have been in the Air Guard for 20 years or less, he said, have been focused on the Air Expeditionary Force construct.
"They know nothing else," Wyatt said. "They are used to it."
Wyatt said that when he joined the Air Guard, the force was not built for such deployments.
"We have evolved into an air expeditionary force -- an extremely capable air expeditionary force. But what will be the demands of tomorrow?"
Wyatt said he also is proud of the Air Guard's domestic response capability, but there are challenges ahead for that mission too.
"We have 30 percent less airlift now than we did when we responded to Hurricane Katrina," Wyatt said, adding that in fiscal year 2010 more than 100 emergencies across the country generated over 2,250 airlift sorties.
"We are on call 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. If that's not value for America, I don't know what is," he said.
The Air Guard is slated to undergo many mission changes next year, Wyatt said, as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
"We have undergone a lot of change and it has been undertaken in a short time period," he said. "The rate of change is not slowing at all. We need to reflect on the implications of what we have done in the past as we look to the future of the Air National Guard."
The Air Guard has been through trying times before, Wyatt said, noting that when Air Force Maj. Gen. Winston P. "Wimpy" Wilson was the director of the Air National Guard, he lost 50 percent of his aircraft due to resource constrictions. Wilson converted into more modern aircraft and diversified the force into non-flying missions, Wyatt said.
On the other hand, when Air Force Lt. Gen. John B. Conaway was director of the Air National Guard during the Reagan years, he was faced with a flood of resources.
"He took advantage of the landscape and he moved us forward," Wyatt said of Conaway's achievements.
Wyatt said he needs his senior leaders to help him decide how to go forward. He plans to conduct an internal review this year to get an "honest assessment" of the Air Guard.
"We will not lose momentum," he said. "We owe our airmen that effort."
Wyatt said the key to the Air Guard's future is to: "Figure out what we do best, what we do most efficiently, most cost-effectively and grab it!"
By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau
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