By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard Public Affairs
STARKE, Fla. (4/16/12) – In the span of a few moments one Florida Air National Guard unit became part of the past, and another became the way of the future.
On April 12, the Florida Air Guard's Weather Readiness Training Center was inactivated as the 131st Training Flight was activated in its place.
A small afternoon ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center marked the transition – a transition that will increase the training unit's abilities and successes, said Florida Air Guard leadership.
The WRTC's mission was to train Air Force and Air National Guard weather personnel in combat meteorological tasks. The 131st Training Flight will continue to provide the same support, but the designation as a "numbered unit" will increase its effectiveness in the Air National Guard and help it better equip and train weather Airmen to go into combat zones.
"The unit will finally be its own numbered unit, and that's going to give the personnel in the unit the ability to be eligible for unit-level awards," said Air Force Maj. John Waltbilling, the 131st TF commander and former WRTC commandant. "And it gives us the command authority that our students deserve."
Currently, Air National Guard personnel from 42 states have trained at the WRTC, but Airmen from all 54 Air National Guard states and territories are eligible for the combat weather training.
Waltbilling said now under the 131st that also means the training program could expand into areas outside weather-related tasks and could include Battlefield Airman Skills, vehicle operations, AFTR training records, and other ancillary tasks.
"As the training missions continue to morph and evolve, the 131st Training Flight will continue to meet the needs of today's Air Force and the National Guard through the dedication and adherence to the Air Force core values exemplified by all its personnel," he said.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing recently converted to a new mission as well. Re-designated as the 118th Wing, the unit – which can trace its history back to World War I – retains a flying mission as the Air Education and Training Command’s C-130 International Training Center.
“These new missions are a culmination of efforts by our elected officials, Tennessee governors, and the command and staff of the Tennessee National Guard,” said Army Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard. “It truly benefits Tennessee for us to advance our volunteer tradition into the future of warfare with modern missions.”
A formal mission announcement ceremony for the 118th Wing was held April 14 at Berry Air National Guard Base in Nashville, Tenn.
-The Tennessee National Guard also contributed to this story“It’s an honor to have the [Army] National Guard command sergeant major come here,” said Army Spc. Michael Hilario, a member of ADT 4. “You have somebody of that rank and the stature that he holds in Washington…that speaks volumes to me. It lets us know that we’re on the right track.”