WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 — The Air Force’s senior civilian said the Air National Guard leads the way in providing “maximum combat power when and where the nation needs it, with the absolute best value for each and every taxpayer dollar.”
“Our nation’s global reach, as it exists today, would be impossible without the contributions of the Guard,” Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said last week during remarks at the Air National Guard’s 2010 Senior Leadership Conference here.
Donley, the conference’s keynote speaker, focused on the role the Air Guard has in the Air Force and the future of the total force initiative. “As the guarantors of the Air Force’s contract with the American people to keep our skies safe, you have been annually responsible for 94 percent of our alert sites and up to 60 percent of the active intercepts of performing the air sovereignty mission,” he said.
Donley also acknowledged the operational importance of the Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan missions. “Your contributions were critical to the movement of over five million tons of cargo and 13 million passengers to Afghanistan,” he said. “And that was before the surge even began.”
In addition to bringing global vigilance and reach, the Air Guard also provides global power to the fight with 29 percent of the Air Force’s fighter attack aircraft. “Guard fighters provide close air support, dominating the high ground through armed watch over ground patrols and sometimes shaping insurgent behavior with simply a loud and timely show of force,” Donley said.
“Supporting the joint fight … the Guard has been providing 25 percent of all remotely piloted aircraft sorties,” he said. “Not to mention the processing, exploitation and dissemination of the information that they collect.”
Finally, Air Guard rescue units have deployed repeatedly and performed heroically by recovering servicemembers with critical battlefield injuries from hot landing zones, he said. “These missions and others that the Guard is performing are critical to our success in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we are counted on by our joint and coalition partners to provide global vigilance,” he said. “In a similar fashion … over half of our airlift and refueling fleet is operated by the reserve component, with 40 percent of our air-refueling capability alone residing in the Guard.
“Each of you and your units has contributed to the success of our total force,” he said.
Donley also recognized that all of these missions were accomplished by traditional Guardsmen, who have families back home.
“Many of you are accomplishing all of this while balancing a full-time civilian job and family,” he said. “I still don’t know how you do it all.”
One key is the Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides information, services, referrals and proactive outreach opportunities.
“I am especially impressed with your rapid deployment of airmen and family readiness program managers,” Donley said. “You find unique and innovative ways to reach out to family members that are often disbursed geographically across your state.”
Donley said he also is impressed with the reach of the Air Guard with 106,700 members in 88 wings and 200 geographically separated units around the country.
“Your geographic footprint … can also help make us a more diverse and stronger Air Force,” he said. “In some states, Guard installations represent the only Air Force presence, making you a critical link from the total force to the state and local communities.
“Beyond your geographic reach, you’re also bringing diversity because of the civilian perspectives and varying skill sets you bring to your work,” he said.
Donley said the Air Force’s senior leadership is proud of the Air Guard’s commitment to the states and the country.
“It is the sustained commitment of the National Guard that has helped give meaning to the term ‘total force’ in communities across America,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)