By Air National Guard Master Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral, Colorado National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published March 27, 2012
WASHINGTON -- An envoy of Colorado National Guard leaders trekked to the nation's capitol this week to meet with top National Guard and legislative leadership, and petition for CONG initiatives and concerns.
The annual, informal "State of the State" forum allows frank discussion between the CONG's adjutants general and senior enlisted leaders, and their counterparts at the national level, about the Colorado Guard's future in terms of funding, process improvements, force shaping, restructuring and recapitalizing.
Among the key issues brought to the top:
Colorado Army National Guard
Growing military intelligence: Colorado is postured to realign force structure, particularly as it applies to military intelligence. With Colorado's population expected to increase 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, existing intelligence organizations firmly in place at several Department of Defense locations, U.S. Northern Command and NORAD; and the 86th Military Intelligence Company at more than 100 percent end strength, "The COARNG is postured to capitalize on the momentum and increase force structure in a multi-functional MI battalion," said COARNG Commander Brig. Gen. Dana Capozzella.
Implement a sustainable approach to man all aspects of Warrior Leader Course at Fort Carson: The WLC has grown from a drill weekend program into a fully functioning schoolhouse, but manning for the school, which is instructing a new course every two weeks, hasn't kept up with the demand. For perspective, in fiscal year 2010, 1,470 students attended the school. In FY 11, student throughput increased to 2,033; and to date in FY 12, 1,014 students have completed school - all without increasing COARNG support staff. While some relief has come from the active duty and Army Reserve, it's still not enough.
"It's running like an active duty school," said Capozzella. "It should be manned like an active duty school."
Request partial relief of full-time manning reductions: A number of Active Guard Reserve and technician slots are currently facing cuts. While some positions may get funded again in FY 13, there are no guarantees. Capozzella posed that while the financial picture isn't promising, leaders may want to consider the value of those positions to the mission as a whole. If positions may yet be funded in the next fiscal year, little can be gained by cutting a position Sept. 30 only to rehire for the same position Oct. 1.
Colorado Air National Guard issues
Maintenance and operations of F-16 fleet: Current logistical issues are preventing the necessary sortie generation to support a fully manned unit, creating a lack of flying hours and understaffed maintenance. Coupled with an aging aircraft fleet, and ongoing depot and supply issues, it's a recipe for disaster. To illustrate the issue, leaders pointed to the fact that while the goal for non-mission capable due to supply is 10 percent ANG-wide, the COANG is currently at 24 percent.
137th Space Warning Squadron and S2E2 conversion process: Normally, when a unit converts to new equipment, manpower studies are mandated. The 137 SWS is in the process of converting from defense support program satellites to new-generation Space-Based Infrared System (SBIR) satellites. Currently, there are communications issues between the old and new systems. And because the 137th is a one-of-a-kind unit with a unique mission, the corporate knowledge is limited. While SBIRs is an important upgrade, it creates potential manning issues, as funding to keep manpower and knowledge functional as new systems replace the old is lacking, and the unit's 24/7 mission continues. Additionally, no manpower studies have been completed to determine exactly how many personnel will be needed to run the new equipment. Also at issue is an ongoing organizational change request to transform the 137 SWS into a group, a decision that was originally approved but is now stalled at higher levels.
Total force initiative: A focus of Programming Change Request 1201 is the total force initiative currently in progress. It outlines the Air Force's budget proposals and therein the impact on the Air National Guard. The document has identified the 140th Wing as one of six units to become an active associate. Leaders are requesting more fidelity on the timing and mechanism that the active duty association will bring. Additionally, leaders requested assurance that the appropriate maintenance support is available based on current sortie generation issues. As it stands, the COANG anticipates losing pilot and maintenance positions that will be replaced with active duty Airmen, as well as losing explosive ordnance disposal, weather and firefighting personnel, while gaining medical personnel in support of the CONG's CERFP mission.
Funding Joint Missions: CONG leaders are concerned at the lack of baseline budget support to fund joint missions. In response, Guard Bureau personnel pointed to the joint operations center as a golden opportunity to prove that the requirement is over and above current resourcing. However, without joint account, the responsibility still lies with the respective services to provide necessary funding for joint operations.
Budget for defense support for civil authorities: For disaster response, Guard Bureau personnel stated that the key to success is to ask for Title 32 personnel and encourage governors to ask the president to declare a federal emergency. Colorado leaders also encouraged leaders in every state to engage Congress regarding these options. In order to be effective, this option needs support of adjutants general, Guard associations, governors end others, in order to tap into the defense emergency response fund.
State Partnership Program: With some state partnerships entering nearly two decades, CONG leaders asked about the vision for mature state partnerships, such as Colorado-Slovenia, and how those partnerships will continue evolving while still maintaining the program's basic principles. Additionally, as a small entity with its own niche, another question was raised about maintaining the SPP niche while more people and organizations look to oversee the program.
New this year for enlisted leaders was a meeting with Marine Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, who, just months ago, stepped up to the position as senior enlisted advisor to Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It was Battaglia's first experience in a state of the state forum and he extended what was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting by an additional hour in order to become fully aware of all the issues brought forward by Command Sgt. Maj. Rob Lawrence, CONG senior enlisted leader.
Among the list of positive discussion points was the uniqueness of the CONG units and missions, including the standard bearing SPP, best practices from the enlisted standpoint, and noncommissioned officer development.
Other issues brought to the table included:
Predictability: In addition to regular training, Soldiers and Airmen are often called to deploy, attend schools and attend other temporary duty assignments. Though these absences aren't new to the military, for a Guard member, they often lead to unintended challenges and unpredictable calendars when changes occur suddenly such as being off-ramped or when a school slot is canceled due to lack of funding. Leaders discussed the significant impact of such irregular absences on Guard members' families, employers and communities.
Need for senior enlisted training at the joint task force level: While dual-hat commanders are required to attend joint training, there is no equivalent training for enlisted leaders, therefore the effectiveness of a joint enlisted leader is impacted.
Community-based Warrior Transition Units (CBWTUs): The SELs discussed the logistical challenges associated with members who don't live near an active duty base and who are assigned to the community-based WTUs.
Air Force's proposed drawdown: Discussion centered on the impact of this pending action on traditional Guardsmen, employers, families and communities.
As a result of this meeting, the CONG looks forward to hosting Battaglia when he visits Colorado in the near future.
Further dialogue with Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski Hall, senior enlisted leader to Chief of The National Guard Bureau; Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Burch; and Reserve Affairs Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Gipe, centered on the implementation of the Air National Guard grade review, additional concerns relating to promotions of Soldiers in the Warrior Transition Units, and suggestions for improving WTU services by expanding services to existing Air Force bases among several other important topics.