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Guard, Reserve leaders speak before Senate

WASHINGTON (AFNEWS) -- Military leaders from the National Guard and Reserve testified before members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense, April 11 on Capitol Hill to give a status on the forces and to bring focus on the services' budget.

Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the director of the Air National Guard, spoke candidly about the Airmen under his leadership and their ability to adapt to the ongoing war on terrorism, base realignment and closure changes, the Air Force's Total Force Integration initiative and recapitalization.

"In the year I've been in this position, I've been able to visit units throughout the states," he said, "and I'm proud of the men and women who are serving."

General McKinley pointed out the Total Force success found in Burlington, Vt., with community basing. In 2005, a group of active-duty maintainers from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., were sent to there to be trained by Airmen of the Vermont Air National Guard's 158th Fighter Wing. The idea was to provide a setting where young maintainers could learn from veteran guardsmen.

He said the insight and experience offered by the guardsmen was invaluable to the newer Airmen. Airmen with lower skill levels and experience became familiar with higher skill level work.

"It was a total success," General McKinley said. "It was a great concept and the Burlington community embraced it. It produced results ... and I believe community basing is the way of the future (for the total force)," he said.

He also talked about the accomplishments of the 119th Fighter Wing out of Fargo, N.D., an award-winning flying unit that was greatly affected by BRAC. He praised their ability to adapt to change, a trait found in all Airmen, he said.

"This very distinguished unit lost their F-16s, which had been there for years," he said. "But the crews there remained professional and ready to fight and have embraced the new missions (MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and the C-21 Lear Jet) and are proud of what they do."

Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, chief of Air Force Reserve, also testified about the Airmen in his command and their response to BRAC changes.

"The 2005 BRAC had a significant impact to the Air Force Reserve," he said in his written statement. "BRAC directed the realignment of seven wings and the closure of one wing, General Billy Mitchell Field, Milwaukee, Wis. To our Reserve Airmen, a base realignment, in many cases, is essentially a closure. We are working closely with the Air Force and the office of the secretary of defense on initiatives, which encourage those impacted by BRAC decisions to continue serving their nation."

He said the readiness of his Reserve Airmen is world-class.

"We pride ourselves on our ability to respond to any global crisis within 72 hours," General Bradley said. "In many cases, including our response to natural disasters, we respond within 24 hours. We train our selected Reserve to the same standards as the active duty for a reason: We are one Air Force in the same fight."

Both generals said that one of their goals is to support the recapitalization efforts set for the force's aging fleet and equipment, a sentiment reiterated by Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

"While we have the very best people and the Air National Guard is fully up to strength, we have this kind of experience where the equipment (these Airmen) are working on back at home station was built in 1953," General Blum said.

General Blum addressed the Senators with a card listing the various types of equipment and resources the Guard needs to ensure sustainability of the force, whether they are fighting the war on terrorism abroad or dealing with natural disasters at home.

"No Soldier or unit is going to go to war unready or unequipped," General Blum said. "It's not going to happen. But we are pushing the limit of the Guard and Reserve in regards to equipment and resources. In order to sustain the capabilities we have today, we are going to need the government's support."
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