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Guarding against an uncertain future: Q&A with Air National Guard director, Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Keith Moore
  • Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs
President Barack Obama's Jan. 5 release of the nation's new National Military Strategy for the force of 2020 sent shockwaves Air Force-wide, prompting the question: What will the Air Force and the Air National Guard of the future look like?

Commanders of the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith and the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base hosted command visits by Lt. Gen. Harry "Bud" Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard, Jan. 18-19.

With a "hurricane of change" bearing down on the Air Force and Air National Guard, the Arkansas National Guard State Public Affairs Office asked Lt. Gen. Wyatt some poignant questions to give Airmen some perspective on the issues and the impact on their careers.

Arkansas National Guard: How is the Air National Guard (ANG) positioned to come through the upcoming "turbulence" that lies ahead?

Wyatt: I really like where the ANG is positioned. When you look at the cost effectiveness of the ANG, the combat capability we produce for the dollar spent - you find that you really get a lot of bang for the buck. When you consider we are in all 54 states and territories, and the Air Force Chief of Staff's objective is to have an AF presence in every state ... the ANG is the perfect match. The ANG is already forward deployed - not only in the conflicts overseas, but also in the homeland defense mission.

When you consider that 94 percent of all emergencies - man-made or natural - are handled by first responders, and the National Guard is the first military responders. You can see the importance of ANG units being positioned in every state for such missions. You can also see how the capabilities of the ANG mesh very nicely with the new national military strategy. Overall, I'm pleased with the national military strategy, and I'm pleased with the outlook for the Air National Guard as we go forward.

Arkansas National Guard: How will this "hurricane of change" impact recruiting and retention for the Air Guard?

Wyatt: Just like the aftermath of [the Base Realignment and Closure Commission] 2005, we had six years to implement that fully. Some relocated, retrained, or moved to an entirely different career field. What we have to focus on is giving our Airmen a future and life and vitality in careers that will be long lasting and growing. Will it be tough? Yes, absolutely. May we lose some valuable people along the way? Yes, it is very likely we may. However, what we have to do is recognize those people for their service, their commitment and remind them that there is no way the ANG would be where it is today without their significant contributions.

We are an organization that has to grow and change or we will be left behind. We will have to efficiently utilize our force management tools to manage and recruit the people we need for the future of the ANG. We are working positively with the AF to explore additional recruiting and retention tools that the ANG may need as we go forward. Unlike in BRAC-2005, the changes that come about in the FY-13 budget will require us to react much more quickly because those changes will have to be implemented in that one-year time frame. We just have to do it smartly.

In looking at new missions, one thing the ANG has not done well in its history is to move manpower to mission. Going forward if a decision is made to place a specific mission in one location and there is not sufficient manpower there to support it, the ANG will have to move that manpower from one location, or state, to another to fully support the mission. This is where the additional benefits and incentives will help make that happen more smoothly.

Arkansas National Guard: Don't you think you will get some push back from governors looking at maintaining capability in their states?

Wyatt: Yeah, this is going to spark some heated discussions, no doubt. But we have to have the vision of the construct on the other side of the "hurricane." By making this change now, can we better position our Airmen with growing missions that will outlive the mission they are currently performing? Additionally, for a local economy such a mission change may actually have a better long-term economic impact by drawing traditional Airmen to the community with different skill sets and technologies to further develop the local workforce.

Arkansas National Guard: How is the ANG implementing its mantra of "Value-Added for America" when it comes to the cost vs. capability argument?

Wyatt: Older schools of thought are locked on the concept of air power and capabilities based on aerial platforms. However, the AF and ANG of the future will be smaller and more focused on capabilities. That force will build on the strengths and capabilities of many other things such as remotely piloted aircraft and cyber technology. The value-added strength of the Guard is that some of these technologies may also have applications for civilian uses in our local communities. So our traditional Guardsmen can bring a variety of skills to apply not only for their military career, but also invest those skills and abilities in the local community.

Other value-added considerations for the Air Guard are in the fact that most ANG units have a relatively small footprint and not a lot of infrastructure. The 66 ANG units around the nation that reside on commercial airfields access considerable infrastructure for very little cost. For roughly $5 million annually, these units access approximately $20 billion in infrastructure. This is like renting a $200,000 house for $21 per month. There is considerable savings in being community-based.

Arkansas National Guard: We are talking considerable budget reductions, and the ANG is showing how it is already more cost-effective. In looking to the future and the Air Force is in your investment portfolio - where do you invest to get the best return on investment?

Wyatt: I would invest in remotely piloted aircraft and cyber technologies. Looking ahead these are emerging technologies and concepts that could grow even in times of declining economy. We already know we are going to have fewer airplanes in the future.

Arkansas National Guard: What guidance would you give our Airmen to help navigate the turbulence ahead? Some may think this is a perfect time to separate from the service.

Wyatt: This is a time of concern because these decisions will impact your futures and the futures of your units. However, take comfort in knowing that coming out the other side of the hurricane there will be an Air National Guard. How large? We don't know. But it will be much more capable, and it will have much more of an enduring future. There are several things every Airman can do to contribute to the future of the force:

1. Airmen can help by staying focused on your job. Make sure that you put all the time and professionalism into your job necessary to make you the best Airman that you can be, and to make your unit the best. This quality and professionalism is what buys the ANG the credibility to come out the other side of the hurricane in great shape.

2. Secondly, the ANG members have got to get out and tell their story. So many times our ANG Airmen meld seamlessly with their counterparts so no one really knows the good that our Airmen are doing to help in the war fight, or in their own communities. We are partly to blame for this because we don't take time to brag on our own people. [Former New York Yankees catcher] Yogi Berra used to say, "If it is fact ... it ain't braggin."

Arkansas National Guard: What is the future objective for the ANG?

Wyatt: We want to keep the Air in the Air National Guard! We want to continue being a federal fighting force, but we also want to invest heavily in those dual-use capabilities that can not only be used for the war fight, but also be employed by the governor in times of natural disaster or domestic attack.


Guarding against an uncertain future: Q&A with Air National Guard director, Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Keith Moore
  • Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs
President Barack Obama's Jan. 5 release of the nation's new National Military Strategy for the force of 2020 sent shockwaves Air Force-wide, prompting the question: What will the Air Force and the Air National Guard of the future look like?

Commanders of the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith and the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base hosted command visits by Lt. Gen. Harry "Bud" Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard, Jan. 18-19.

With a "hurricane of change" bearing down on the Air Force and Air National Guard, the Arkansas National Guard State Public Affairs Office asked Lt. Gen. Wyatt some poignant questions to give Airmen some perspective on the issues and the impact on their careers.

Arkansas National Guard: How is the Air National Guard (ANG) positioned to come through the upcoming "turbulence" that lies ahead?

Wyatt: I really like where the ANG is positioned. When you look at the cost effectiveness of the ANG, the combat capability we produce for the dollar spent - you find that you really get a lot of bang for the buck. When you consider we are in all 54 states and territories, and the Air Force Chief of Staff's objective is to have an AF presence in every state ... the ANG is the perfect match. The ANG is already forward deployed - not only in the conflicts overseas, but also in the homeland defense mission.

When you consider that 94 percent of all emergencies - man-made or natural - are handled by first responders, and the National Guard is the first military responders. You can see the importance of ANG units being positioned in every state for such missions. You can also see how the capabilities of the ANG mesh very nicely with the new national military strategy. Overall, I'm pleased with the national military strategy, and I'm pleased with the outlook for the Air National Guard as we go forward.

Arkansas National Guard: How will this "hurricane of change" impact recruiting and retention for the Air Guard?

Wyatt: Just like the aftermath of [the Base Realignment and Closure Commission] 2005, we had six years to implement that fully. Some relocated, retrained, or moved to an entirely different career field. What we have to focus on is giving our Airmen a future and life and vitality in careers that will be long lasting and growing. Will it be tough? Yes, absolutely. May we lose some valuable people along the way? Yes, it is very likely we may. However, what we have to do is recognize those people for their service, their commitment and remind them that there is no way the ANG would be where it is today without their significant contributions.

We are an organization that has to grow and change or we will be left behind. We will have to efficiently utilize our force management tools to manage and recruit the people we need for the future of the ANG. We are working positively with the AF to explore additional recruiting and retention tools that the ANG may need as we go forward. Unlike in BRAC-2005, the changes that come about in the FY-13 budget will require us to react much more quickly because those changes will have to be implemented in that one-year time frame. We just have to do it smartly.

In looking at new missions, one thing the ANG has not done well in its history is to move manpower to mission. Going forward if a decision is made to place a specific mission in one location and there is not sufficient manpower there to support it, the ANG will have to move that manpower from one location, or state, to another to fully support the mission. This is where the additional benefits and incentives will help make that happen more smoothly.

Arkansas National Guard: Don't you think you will get some push back from governors looking at maintaining capability in their states?

Wyatt: Yeah, this is going to spark some heated discussions, no doubt. But we have to have the vision of the construct on the other side of the "hurricane." By making this change now, can we better position our Airmen with growing missions that will outlive the mission they are currently performing? Additionally, for a local economy such a mission change may actually have a better long-term economic impact by drawing traditional Airmen to the community with different skill sets and technologies to further develop the local workforce.

Arkansas National Guard: How is the ANG implementing its mantra of "Value-Added for America" when it comes to the cost vs. capability argument?

Wyatt: Older schools of thought are locked on the concept of air power and capabilities based on aerial platforms. However, the AF and ANG of the future will be smaller and more focused on capabilities. That force will build on the strengths and capabilities of many other things such as remotely piloted aircraft and cyber technology. The value-added strength of the Guard is that some of these technologies may also have applications for civilian uses in our local communities. So our traditional Guardsmen can bring a variety of skills to apply not only for their military career, but also invest those skills and abilities in the local community.

Other value-added considerations for the Air Guard are in the fact that most ANG units have a relatively small footprint and not a lot of infrastructure. The 66 ANG units around the nation that reside on commercial airfields access considerable infrastructure for very little cost. For roughly $5 million annually, these units access approximately $20 billion in infrastructure. This is like renting a $200,000 house for $21 per month. There is considerable savings in being community-based.

Arkansas National Guard: We are talking considerable budget reductions, and the ANG is showing how it is already more cost-effective. In looking to the future and the Air Force is in your investment portfolio - where do you invest to get the best return on investment?

Wyatt: I would invest in remotely piloted aircraft and cyber technologies. Looking ahead these are emerging technologies and concepts that could grow even in times of declining economy. We already know we are going to have fewer airplanes in the future.

Arkansas National Guard: What guidance would you give our Airmen to help navigate the turbulence ahead? Some may think this is a perfect time to separate from the service.

Wyatt: This is a time of concern because these decisions will impact your futures and the futures of your units. However, take comfort in knowing that coming out the other side of the hurricane there will be an Air National Guard. How large? We don't know. But it will be much more capable, and it will have much more of an enduring future. There are several things every Airman can do to contribute to the future of the force:

1. Airmen can help by staying focused on your job. Make sure that you put all the time and professionalism into your job necessary to make you the best Airman that you can be, and to make your unit the best. This quality and professionalism is what buys the ANG the credibility to come out the other side of the hurricane in great shape.

2. Secondly, the ANG members have got to get out and tell their story. So many times our ANG Airmen meld seamlessly with their counterparts so no one really knows the good that our Airmen are doing to help in the war fight, or in their own communities. We are partly to blame for this because we don't take time to brag on our own people. [Former New York Yankees catcher] Yogi Berra used to say, "If it is fact ... it ain't braggin."

Arkansas National Guard: What is the future objective for the ANG?

Wyatt: We want to keep the Air in the Air National Guard! We want to continue being a federal fighting force, but we also want to invest heavily in those dual-use capabilities that can not only be used for the war fight, but also be employed by the governor in times of natural disaster or domestic attack.