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NEWS | Feb. 1, 2011

Air Guard enlisted leaders tackle issues

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul C. Meeker 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

NEW ORLEANS - The regional representatives from the Air National Guard’s Enlisted Field Advisory Council met at Louisiana National Guard’s headquarters here to discuss critical issues that affect all enlisted Air National Guardmembers, Jan. 24 to 28.

On the agenda: improving the lives and mission capabilities of 94,000 enlisted Air Guardsmen.

According to its mission statement, the EFAC’s purpose is to propose solutions, changes and other policy actions that impact enlisted members of the ANG.

The attending ANG senior enlisted leaders from the seven regions that represent 54 states and territories, tackled a wide-ranging agenda with more than 30 issues of concern that have percolated up through state and regional chains-of-command.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael Dalton, chairman of the EFAC, described the council as the problem-solving element in the ANG that is committed to improving the support base – the health, morale & welfare – of all enlisted Airmen.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Chris Muncy, command chief master sergeant of the ANG, extended Dalton’s description by highlighting the fact that the EFAC process provides a “field-based focus on Airmen issues.”

This means that the EFAC’s work is designed to translate to measureable improvement in an Airman’s ability to do his or her job meaningfully and effectively.

The senior enlisted leader to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise M. Jelinski-Hall, emphasized that the EFAC does more than just tackle problems; it also evaluates successful activities from the field and determines their relevance to all enlisted Airmen in the force.

“While we get great direction and guidance from our officers, it’s the enlisted corps that executes. So if there’s an issue or concern that affects the entire enlisted force on a national level, it comes to this body. An issue brought to the council could also be a best practice that someone wants to share, something that is working right and working well,” said Jelinski-Hall.

Some of the topics on this year’s agenda included providing better access to distance-learning
programs, implementing effective PTSD training, properly supervising physical fitness training and testing, as well as improving compensation, retirement and VA benefits.

Dalton said that not all agenda items are new business; in fact, one or two agenda items stretch back to the early 90s, he said – illustrating that issues deemed critical by the EFAC continue to be worked until some form of resolution is realized.

One such issue that was successfully resolved to ANG satisfaction was the implementation in 2009 of the Hometown Heroes Salute program which recognizes eligible Air Guardsmen who deployed for more than 30 consecutive days for contingency operations such as Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

“The Hometown Heroes Salute program is a success story, and it’s modeled after the Army’s Freedom Salute program,” Muncy said.

“It was proposed to the Air Guard at the same time the Army program was proposed to the Army Guard, but the Air Guard initially said, ‘… We don’t need it.’ Now it’s the greatest thing in the world – leadership sees it, Airmen see it, commanders see it. But it took enlisted focus to help Air Guard leaders understand that this is what you’ll need, this is what your families and your community will need. Hometown Heroes was a win.”

The Hometown Heroes Salute program emerged as one of four or five top concerns that emerged through the EFAC process several years ago.

The same will occur as a result of this year’s EFAC activities – the top concerns will be routed via Muncy, in his capacity as command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard, to the director of the Air National Guard, Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, for his review and guidance, Dalton explained.

The significance of holding this particular EFAC conference at Jackson Barracks, recently rededicated as the headquarters of the LANG following its emergence from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, was not lost on Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

Landreneau opened the EFAC conference by recalling that many of the senior elected leaders present were directly involved in assisting the citizens of Louisiana after the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Katrina.

“It [the National Guard’s response] was something to behold … and I thank you for your part in it,” said Landreneau.