Air Guard is Ready Around the Clock

Oct. 1, 1981
There have been many years and many changes in the Air National Guard since the first unit was organized in 1908. Then, the 1st Company, Signal Corps, of the New York National Guard had no airplanes and very few people.

The Air Guard has since come a long way, and the 1980s are a new and exciting decade for us. I believe the Air National Guard can take pride in the challenges ahead and feel that the 1980s will truly be an Air National Guard era.

It is appropriate to me, as we start the 1980s, that AIR FORCE Magazine take a serious and in-depth look at the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve.

The ANG is truly a national resource in that it has both a State and a Federal mission. Historically, the State mission dates back to the days of the original militia when the purpose of the Guard was to protect home and community. Our State mission is much the same today. We provide organized, trained, and equipped Air Guard units, which, under competent orders of State authorities, will provide protection for life and property and preserve peace, order, and public safety. These missions, funded by the States, include natural disaster relief, conducting search and rescue, maintaining vital public services, and providing support to civil defense.

Recent State missions for the ANG range from combating the medfly to packing and transporting radioactive waste. It is the State mission we fulfill as citizen-airmen that makes the Air Guard unique within our total Air Force.

Our Federal mission is to provide units properly equipped and with trained personnel for prompt mobilization as a primary source of augmentation for the United States Air Force in the event of a national emergency or war. The advent of the Total Force Policy in 1973 has found the Air Guard assuming a greater role in the day-to-day operational activities of our “gaining” major commands: TAC, SAC, MAC, PACAF, AAC, and AFCC.

Air Guard people and equipment can no longer be considered just “weekend warriors,” but have evolved into a full-time contingency force with worldwide missions. We participate in deployments around the globe, in such places as Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Germany, Norway, Korea, and the United Kingdom. Guard KC-135 tankers are standing constant alert as part of the European Tanker Task Force. “Ski-equipped” C-130s of the New York Air Guard perform DEW Line resupply missions each year.

Six months of each year, Guard C-130s are in Panama providing airlift support to the Southern Command. On duty in Panama year round are ANG A-7s and support personnel, charged with support of defense of the Panama Canal. In the United States, Air National Guard units stand air defense alert at sixteen locations, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, as we have for the past twenty-eight years.

The Puerto Rico Air Guard provides aerial surveillance of the island, and Hawaii’s Air Guard provides 100 percent of that State’s air defense capability. Also, the Hawaii Guard last year participated in an exercise called Cope North, where they flew training missions with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. They were the first American airmen ever to do so.

As these examples illustrate, the Total Force Policy really works between the Air Force and the Air Guard on a daily basis. Various Air Guard units have roles in every major exercise that is planned, and we are involved in approximately twelve major deployments a year in locations outside CONUS.

Recently, during Tactical Air Command’s Exercise Coronet Canvas, the 138th Tactical Fighter Group, Oklahoma ANG, received air-refueling support and equipment and personnel transport from he first KC-10A Extender ever to participate an a deployment. Nine of our flying units and several communication units are tasked to support the Rapid Deployment Force.

Two of our major goals for the 1980s are to increase the combat readiness and sustainability levels of our units and attain the highest state of equipment modernization in Air Guard history. We currently have more than 1,600 aircraft in the Air Guard. These weapon systems represent sixty-three percent of the Air Force’s interceptor force, fifty-seven percent of the tactical reconnaissance force, forty-seven percent of the tactical air support, thirty percent of the tactical airlift, twenty-five percent of the tactical fighters, seventeen percent of the air-refueling tankers, and fourteen percent of the rescue and recovery capability. We are proud of our contribution and are planning and organizing now to improve our support for these important wartime missions.

The Air Guard is composed of ninety-one flying units and 235 independent nonflying units. We are constantly evaluating our resources and willingly accept those missions where we can make a positive impact. Recently, we added a Civil Engineering PRIME BEEF Flight on the island of Guam to our forces.

In the overall communications mission, we have more than 20,000 Air Guardsmen and women assigned to 184 Air Force Communications Command and Tactical Air Command-gained units. Air Guard communications people provide fifty-five percent of the Air Force’s electronic installation capability. ANG communications units also represent seventy-five percent of the people and seventy percent of the equipment used in mobile communications and air traffic services roles. In FY ’82, Air Guard tactical will constitute fifty-five percent of the Air Force weapon system control capability.

Air Guard Civil Engineering units are organized to provide PRIME BEEF and RED HORSE support in the event of mobilization. Our engineering units often perform their annual training away from their home site in support of engineering requirements at various Air Force bases around the world.

In the past five years, eighty-five percent of our Air National Guard units have been modernized with newer equipment. A-7 and A-10 fighters and new C-130Hs, all direct from the factory, are excellent examples of the modernization effort currently taking place in the Air Guard. The Air Force plans to replace the remainder of our O-2s, F-101s, EB-57s, and F-105s. Our goal is to modernize Guard forces in conjunction with active force modernization and achieve the optimum Total Force balance. The force modernization efforts in the Air Guard will lead to incorporating the F-16 into our inventory in the near future.

There are currently more than 97,700 officers and airmen serving in our Air Guard units. Another of our goals for the 1980s is to attain 100 percent of the Air Guard wartime strength of 101,000 people. This is the most ambitious recruiting program we have ever undertaken and one which will take the concentrated hard work of all our people.

Equally important to the ANG as getting good people is keeping good people. Our goal in the 1980s is to retain sixty-five percent of our men and women. Every aircraft, radio, bulldozer, and syringe is only as good as the people associated with it. Good people are the Guard’s most important assets, and we want them to grow with us.

We are where we are today, and achieved one of the highest levels of readiness in our history, thanks to the dedication, expertise, and selfless service of our Air Guard men and women. We can only be as good in the 1980s as our people are. That is why we are very involved in the realistic unit training programs and real-world operational missions available to us.

In order for the Air National Guard to successfully overcome the challenges of the 1980s, we must, as an organization, meet the goals that I have outlined. We will be working with the Air Force, the Governors, and Adjutants General of the States and territories to strengthen and modernize the Air Guard.

The men and women of the Air National Guard are committed to “providing for the common defense” in the same spirit as their forebears in the original militia 345 years ago. No longer “weekend warriors,” they work to perform their varied missions at the highest state of readiness possible, often on a daily basis. The overall objective in the 1980s is to make a great Guard even better.

Maj. Gen. John B. Conaway was commissioned in the Air Force through ROTC at the University of Evansville, Ind., from which he earned a B.S. degree in business administration. After undergraduate pilot training, he flew the F-102 fighter-interceptor in the Air Defense Command. He joined the West Virginia Air National Guard in 1960, flying the SA-16. In 1963, he transferred to the Kentucky Air Guard, flying the RB-57. He was called to active duty with the Kentucky Air Guard in 1968, and served in Alaska, Panama, Japan, and Korea. He returned to Kentucky upon deactivation in 1969, becoming its Air Commander in 1972. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1977 and recalled to active duty as Deputy Director, Air National Guard, a post he held until designation as director on April 1, 1981.