By Maj. Mary Harrington, Air National Guard public affairs office
/ Published September 16, 2014
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke, the Director of the Air National Guard, provided an overview of the ANG at the 2014 Air Force Association’s Air & Space and Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15.
During his address, Clarke discussed current operations and end strength, but focused mostly on the people and Airmen.
Clarke shared that the ANG supports federal and state missions with 105,400 members in 89 wings, spread throughout the 50 United States and three territories and the District of Columbia. ANG membership is comprised of 12 percent Air Active Guard Reserve, 18 percent technicians, and 70 percent drill status Guardsmen.
The general introduced his three-part “balanced strategy,” focused on the ANGs position in the total Air Force as a proven choice, the first choice and an enduring choice.
“The first point of the balanced strategy is the Air National Guard is a proven choice for the war fight and overseas operations,” Clarke said. “I didn’t say the only choice; I didn’t say the best choice. I said a proven choice for the war fight.”
“(We are the proven choice) for a lot of reasons … the main one being the Air Force makes sure we are,” Clarke said.
To help illustrate this, Clarke established that Airmen serving in the ANG have earned twenty-five Silver Stars since the ANG’s start in 1947 and 1,116 Bronze Stars since September 11, 2001. In 2014 alone, Clarke awarded three Silver Stars and 34 Bronze Stars.
Clarke used real-world stories of the ANG’s most recent recipients of the Silver Star, which included Master Sgt. Michael Sears, a member of the New Jersey ANG, and Master Sgt. Roger Sparks from the Alaska ANG. Sears and Sparks are Guard Airmen who risked their lives to save lives in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sears was assigned to an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. While traveling in a convoy, he defused two improvised explosive devices, but his convoy was later attacked. Injured and under fire, Sears saved others all while continuing to fight back for hours.
Sparks’ story was similar, in that he provided life-safety care for others, while under fire and after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade. He never left, until he was the last one, saving the lives of others.
Clarke also recognized members of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, including Tech. Sgt. George Thompson, Staff Sgt. Chris Jones, Staff Sgt. Matt Matlock and Tech. Sgt. Douglas Matthews.
“If you know anything about the special tactics world … you understand that they work with special operations forces in a variety of scenarios and often can be very complex,” he said.
Clarke, shared the words of a Navy Seal admiral, who said, “’he gets more out of the special tactics squadron, from the Air Force, than anybody else.” Clarke noted that this is a heck of an accomplishment.
He made special note of Tech. Sgt. Matthews, a Special Tactics Airman, who was recognized as an ANG 2014 Outstanding Airman of the Year, and an Air Force Outstanding Airman of the Year. Matthews was in a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and saved lives, called in air support, and refused evacuation despite injuries, until the excursion was over.
As the second point of the ANG balanced strategy, Clarke stated that the Air National Guard is the first choice for homeland operations and domestic response.
“We are constitutionally organized that way,” he noted.
Clarke mentioned the Air Guard C-130 Hercule's used to fight wildfires in the West, ongoing search-and-rescue missions in Alaska and ongoing Southwest border operations.
“If you have a Guardsman returning from a deployment from Afghanistan, the very next day they could be responding to tornado, flood or hurricane, or something at home … and doing that again, with a part time force,” he said. “”It’s a remarkable organization with remarkable people.”
Introducing the final third of the ANG balanced strategy, Clarke heralded the ANG as an enduring choice for security cooperation and building partnerships.
Clarke pointed to the Guard’s State Partnership Program, or SPP, in which states have enduring long-term relations with countries with similar values and interests, paramount for meeting defense goals in today’s global environment.
“No one else can provide the enduring relationships that we build,” he said using specific state SPP programs as examples. This included Arizona’s SPP with Kazakhstan, Rhode Island’s SPP with the Bahamas, and Missouri’s SPP with Panama.
He mentioned a visit in March 2014 to the 105th Airlift Wing, Stuart Air Base, New York ANG. He showed a picture of members of the base, who were deployed last year to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan; he noted that, during the deployment, the Wing tragically lost a member in a firefight on Sept. 5.
The squadron includes a family of a mother, father and son who are “Air National Guard family….you’ll see that quite often,” he said
Clarke emphasized the seamless integration with the total Air Force and the unique ANG strengths and capabilities, as result of both state and federal missions. He discussed that the ANG’s experienced Guard Airmen and a unique community-based organization with a dual-role, dual-use, unit structured, unit-equipped construct, which enables the ANG to excel. Clarke also emphasized the importance of active associations with the active duty Air Force.
Clarke highlighted that members of the activity duty Air Force, who have decided to separate from active duty, are often recruited right into the ANG. He also pointed out that ANG members are not often moved or retrained, giving them long-term experience and expertise in their career fields.
Almost 100 percent of the ANG’s equipment can be used for both federal and state mission support, and Clarke emphasized the community-based force across the United States and territories.
“This builds trust between the military and America, and lends community support to military efforts at home and abroad,” he said.
Clarke also addressed concern about recapitalization the ANG’s aging fleet, as well as the National Guard Reserve and Equipment Account, or NGREA, and the importance of these monies for the warfighter or domestic operator. He noted the aging fleet with aircraft average ages of about 30 years for the F-15C Eagle; about 24 years for the F-16C Fighting Falcon; about 23 years for HH-60G Pave Hawk; and about 53 years for the KC-135R Stratotanker.
He specifically pointed to the Illinois ANG’s 126th Air Refueling Wing and their aging and limited number of KC-135’s, but all working, comparing the aircraft to his personal, antique 1961 Corvette.
“Yes, I love that car,” he said. “It looks cool … It turns on a dime, turns heads and runs like the wind … but I don’t trust it beyond 10 miles. But we’re asking Airmen to fly these 1961 tankers and older … across thousands of miles, over open ocean, at night, sometimes in adverse conditions, and they do a great job, but it’d be much nicer if we recapitalized and didn’t have to fly airplanes that were much older than the members themselves.”
NGREA was another area of emphasis expressed by Clarke.
“NGREA allows the Air National Guard to put the right capability in the hands of the warfighter or domestic responder – now,” he said.
He cited a list of NGREA initiatives, to include: the Mobile Emergency Operations Center, fatality search and rescue teams, Expeditionary Medical Support modernization, Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, disaster relief bed-down sets, Security Forces Less-than-Lethal Kits, firefighting equipment, disaster relief mobile kitchen trailers and Common Operation Picture system.
Clarke concluded with a photo of three Airmen -- one guardsman, one reservist, and one active-duty --that Gen. Mark A Welsh III, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force had previously shown. He pointed out there is no difference in their appearance, and that all three are serving in either the office of the Secretary of the Air Force or the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
“Yes, there is strength in the three components Air Force,” he said.
Clarke also recognized the Air National Guard’s 2014 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, including Senior Airman Christian Goldsmith, Airman of the Year, New Mexico ANG; Tech. Sgt. Douglas Matthews, Non-commissioned Officer of the Year, Oregon ANG; Master Sgt. Joseph Ashwood, Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year, Texas ANG; Master Sgt. Linda Schwartzlow, First Sergeant of the Year, Wisconsin ANG; Tech. Sgt. Amy Ough, Honor Guard Member of the Year, New York ANG; and Master Sgt. David Coker, Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year, Wisconsin ANG. He made special note of Tech. Sgt. Matthews, who also recognized as an Air Force Outstanding Airman of the Year.
The well-received speech ended with a video on ANG and Air Force Airman of the Year, Tech. Sgt. Douglas Matthews, with combat footage from his life-saving firefight in Afghanistan in November 2012, for which Matthews was awarded the Silver Star.
“I am so proud to serve with these real-world heroes, these Guard Airmen,” he said.