By Col. Frederyck Cayer, Jr., 120th Mission Support Group Commander
/ Published April 01, 2016
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- I attended the Air National Guard Mission Support Group Commander's Conference during the second week of March. It was a great opportunity to listen to the various ANG Directorates discuss their policy and procedure issues, listen to deliberation on the future of the ANG, and network with some fellow MSG Commanders from other states.
Chief James Hotaling, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air National Guard, was one of the speakers as well. He ruminated on pertinent topics such as the tradition of the "Militia Minuteman", Professional Military Education, and leadership. However, there was one statement he made that kept coming back to me in the days after the conference. He stated that, "If you joined the Air National Guard prior to 9-11 (2001); the Guard you joined no longer exists" inferring there have been significant changes since the series of coordinated terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
The statement, no doubt, was made for dramatic effect, as certainly the Air National Guard still exists but there have been many changes to the Air National Guard since 2001. Principal among these changes includes the use of the Air National Guard as an "Operational" reserve versus the traditional "Strategic" reserve the ARC historically provided. Additionally, our training now must include executing our AFSC jobs within an asymmetric battle field rather than "projecting" weapons systems from behind a "rear" line some distance from the front lines of the battle.
The U.S. military is now executing new operations as Operation ENDURING FREEDOM concluded the longest operation in the history of our nation. The Guard and Reserve have, by necessity, become an operational reserve, assisting the Air Force in sustaining the fight for these subsequent operations with national leadership anticipating more to follow. I have had the privilege of serving with troops on the ground in several countries throughout the CENTCOM AOR and see them operate in austere locations and high-threat environments. The changes are real so we must consciously change our mindset as we prepare our troops for new missions with new capabilities in new environments.
These developments over the last 13 years are sobering and highlight the importance of leadership. While much has changed since 9/11, the fundamentals that made the Air National Guard a viable, proud, and capable force yesterday hold true today. Emphasis on mission accomplishment and taking care of people has always been the mantra of the Air National Guard. We must continue to place emphasis on executing the mission, leading people, stewarding resources, and doing those things a little bit better every day. We have a multitude of demands on us these days - more than can possibly be accomplished. But if we stay focused on mission and people and complete the rest as time permits, we will continue the proud heritage of our forefathers as we conquer new challenges.