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October 20, 2004

Checking Six for the Guard and Reserve...

If you don't check out Jason Van Steenwyk at least once a day, you usually miss something good.

I wish to God the Army could figure out a way to get its mind right vis-à-vis the ARC components.

Now, what I know about the Army you could fit in a helmet bag, but it seems to me the active Grunt powers that be could figure out a way to tap a resource and exploit a talent pool a little better than they have up to now.

As a blue-suiter, I'd scratch my head about that a lot. Maybe it's the nature of the skill sets and how we (the Air Force) fight at the trench level.

Airplanes pack a pretty significant punch. A standard complement of Mk-82 500-pounders--6 on the A-10--when dropped approximates every 105 in an arty BN firing simultaneously and landing on the same spot. So, even when we fly around in two- or four ships, while the killing power approximates a respectable ground maneuver unit, it's still a small unit tactic skill being brought to bear. Which sounds like the Army Guard experience--really good in small groups because that's their training process. In other words, the combat power brought to bear in an Air Force platform doesn't require a s**t-load of trigger pullers trained up for battle. The Army, on the other hand, does. Not because their lesser beings (for all you arrogant fighter jocks out there)--it's the nature of the work.

That said, if they're going to rely on the Reserve Components (Guard or Reserve)--and it's pretty clear to most that they're going to have to--you'd think the Army Staff would commit the resources, eh?

Talking to my Guard buds, I've heard numbers as low as 35% on funding for the ARNG (this is, admittedly, hearsay but let's assume for the moment it's somewhere near the mark) while the ANG bucks received from the Air Staff is in the high 80s, if not the 90-percent range. Hmmmm.

To illustrate the benefits if committing to a true Total Force, allow me bore you with two war stories...

As a squadron commander in Europe, I had the dubious honor of running the only dedicated CAS outfit in theater. OK, "dubious" is probably the wrong word--I'd kill for the chance to do that again.

During the first dust-up in Bosnia (Operation DENY FLIGHT), things were a bit challenging, OPTEMPO-wise--one kid had over 300 days TDY because he and one other chap in the entire Wing had some much-needed classified skill sets, etc., etc. To make a long story short, after about a year of rotations that were beating the heck out of the jets and putting a dent on our training requirements, we were spelled by both Guard and Reserve outfits that allowed us to return home to do some much needed repairs and re-hone the boys' CAS skills.

No one was the wiser on the ground--totally transparent performance over the AO (OK, there were a few hiccups but overall a fine show). Here's the kicker--the Guard guys were so well supplied they left us PALLETS of spare parts. That's right...the Guard was resupplying the AD toads. Heh. Not the case today, I'm sure...remember, this was under another Administration...but I was impressed and will not forget it anytime soon.

Second story--the Reserves this time. Graduating from my Corps ALO tour, the 3AF/CC offers me the Vice job at Mildenhall...and the carrot was getting to fly the Hog again at Spangdahlem as "guest help." "Help" was a gross overstatement, but I don't think I scared anyone (too badly). So I go to requal at Barksdale...yeah, the bomber base and 8AF HQ. Well, the A-10 RTU is there. And, as a Colonel, I get sent there instead of Davis-Monthan where they train the community's lesser mortals. Whatever--flying as a Colonel is, well, it's good...and rare, so I'm not going to complain.

Best damn A-10 training I ever experienced.

Just freakin' superb. One of the IPs started out as a crew chief, got his commission and a pilot training slot and came back as a flyer. At an out base he changed his own nose gear tire once. And he could fly that jet...and instruct in his sleep.

One guy who launched me fairly often had been with that tail number since it had been delivered from the factory. He knew his jet. And coming back with a squawk was an almost personal affront.

We used Razorback Range in Arkansas...utterly pristine. The only range I've even been to that looked like it had when it was first built (well maintained) and the rangers had been doing this for about as long as I had been alive. The owners? The Arkansas Guard.

Like the Army, we have our bozos but they're rare. I chalk it up to commitment on both sides, active and RC. I hope the OEF/OIF experience will be a positive catalyst for the Army's evolving relationship with its reserve brethren.

Final word: This is NOT a slam on anybody. I just think we can do better (because it works) and if there's a good example of a learning organism, it's the US military (really). Probably only a matter of time before the Army ends up teaching us a thing or two...