For a proud organization such as the Air National Guard, it has been a tough year. As if losing dozens of bases across the country weren't enough, it is also giving up flying missions and taking on new, unfamiliar roles.
After getting over the shock of such devastating news, the chief of the Air Guard says it's time to stop grieving and start building a new future.
The dramatic changes planned for the Air Guard is the work of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which died for the restructuring of 56 of the Air Guard's 91 flying units, with 14 losing their flying mission, 33 units gaining or losing aircraft, five units converting to a different type of aircraft and four units sharing aircraft with Air Force active-duty units.
"This BRAC was probably the most extensive reallocation of assets that we in the Air National Guard have ever seen," says Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley, director of the Air National Guard.
"When I first took this job a year ago, I really did feel that it was a blow to as, because it had shifted missions, it had moved people around, it had created some tension amongst units that had had stability for 60 years," he tells National Defense aboard a C-17 preparing for departure. "But quite frankly, the grieving period is over for me, and most of our units have now moved on."
As the Air Guard shuffles aircraft to different bases, units that have lost flying missions are transitioning into ground-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance duties, among others.
"It will probably take five to 10 years to fully implement and fully retrain and reset our force, but after it's done, you'll have a very highly capable and efficient Air National Guard that will integrate well with the active component and support the needs of the states and the territories," says McKinley
By law, all BRAC recommendations must be completed by 2011. The Air Force is responsible for implementing the changes affecting the Air Guard.
"We have budgeted for all BRAC-required actions to be completed by fiscal 2011," says Lt. Col. Edward Thomas Jr., spokesman for the Air Force, in an email response to questions from National Defense.
Still, there are hurdles for the Air Guard
"In this fiscally challenging environment, it's going to be difficult to go through all the BRAC legislation, reset our force, and then move into all these new missions at the same time," says McKinley.
Units are being uprooted from traditional...