Rooted in a sea of sand, the US Air Forces Central (AFCENT) mission is, in part, seamlessly accomplished by both active duty and the Air National Guard, proving the concept of total integration of the force (TFI).
TFI is nothing new. Formerly known as the “Future Total Force,” TFI became the norm about 15 years ago, fully integrating the active duty, guard and reserve components of the Air Force into exercises and emergency operations across the United States. world.
“To be honest, I probably wouldn’t know I was flying with a guard pilot or in a guard plane if I didn’t know it ahead of time,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kristoffer “Smirk” Smith, 378th Expeditionary Operations Group. (EOG) following a flight in an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet with South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) pilot Major Shaun “Clutch” Hoeltje. “It is a testament to the high level of professionalism the Swamp Foxes take with them wherever they go. “
The 378th EOG, located at PSAB, is manned by more than 300 Airmen from the 169th Fighter Wing of SCANG, known worldwide as the Swamp Fox. Of these, 50 Airmen are on active duty, permanently assigned to the 316th Fighter Squadron of SCANG, successfully exemplifying TFI since 2007.
Continuity is what the National Guard brings to TFI.
“In active duty, the average posting is between 18 and 36 months,” Hoeltje said.
Conversely, today there are SCANG maintenance aviators deployed to the PSAB who worked on the F-16 for more than thirty years, including at the PSAB in 1991 during Operation DESERT STORM.
“Similar examples exist among pilots,” Hoeltje said. “We will deploy together several times over the course of a 10 to 15 year guard career, which creates cohesion at a different level of active service.”
Hoeltje, who has 2,300 hours in the F-16 and has three combat deployments to his name, added that the group is the most experienced team he has ever seen deploy.
Smith flew the F-16 for 20 years and has 2,000 hours of flight time, 175 of which were in combat. Speaking about the SCANG experience factor, Smith said it allowed the squadron to arrive within a very short handover time and seamlessly resume operations from the previous unit without missing a single sortie. or mission.
The EOG Commander addressed the unique mission of PSCB when he said, “This is not your average deployment. “
PSCB units train and engage continuously with partner nations in the region as they support U.S. Central Command priorities, protect the region, and provide assurance. This includes the employment of small detachments around the area of responsibility to extend the concept of “Agile Combat Employment” and even the training of airmen on how to refuel aircraft other than their main aircraft.
“This is all in addition to the ‘normal’ combat operations that are standard expectations for deployments,” said Smith.
Despite their different service components, Smith and Hoeltje worked together before PSAB. Smith was an instructor pilot at the USAF Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base when Hoeltje completed the USAF Weapons Instructor Course.
“It was great flying with Clutch after knowing him during his days on active duty, and now seeing his stellar job building and leading the youngest swamp foxes in the ward,” said Smith.
Active, guard and reserve pilots train together from the start of their careers.
“This makes the integration between active duty and the guard, at least from a tactical point of view, very easy,” Hoeltje said.
The seamless integration is proof of the force’s total success in the skies of PSAB and the rest of the world.
“From a tactical employment perspective, we really are a total force,” Hoeltje said.