JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - While supporting combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a total integrated force of active, Guard and Reserve Airmen are supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Japan following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that ravaged parts of Japan March 11.
Air Force officials are increasingly relying on the almost 200,000-strong Guard and Reserve force to seamlessly augment the active-duty component as they engage in various operations around the globe, including ongoing combined and joint relief efforts in Japan as part of Operation Tomodachi.
“Our Guard and Reserve Airmen are being called upon more frequently and for longer periods to support both war and peacetime requirements,” said Air Force Col. Gregory Cain, 13th Air Force chief of staff. “Reserve component forces are fully integrated into all operational plans because today no major military operation can be successful without their participation.”
Air National Guard and Reserve Airmen are deployed to Japan and other locations in the Asia-Pacific region to support relief efforts, and here to augment the Pacific Air Forces command staff and the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, where both command and control are conducted in support of U.S. Forces Japan, Joint Task Force 505 and Joint Support Force-Japan.
Since March 11, less than 24 hours after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan, Air Force officials have deployed more than 700 Total-Force personnel and 15 aircraft including the C-12 Huron, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules and the KC-135 Stratotanker.
A variety of support efforts have been performed, to include providing more than 46,000 gallons of fuel and fuel trucks to help grant much-needed power and transporting more than 4.6 million pounds of food, water and blankets. In addition, Airmen have transported more than 5,500 people.
Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 109th Air Operations Group here are augmenting 613th AOC active duty Airmen where command and control operations are being conducted during the operation.
The 109th AOG is the only ANG augmentation unit co-located with its active duty unit and is fully integrated in all aspects of AOC operations, including strategy, plans, intelligence and mobility for command and control of real-world missions from the 613th AOC.
“I'm certain the Air Force's sustained support of Operation Tomodachi would not be possible without the seamless integration of the active, Guard and Reserve components,” said Air Force Col. Michael Compton, 109th AOG commander and the 613th Air and Space Operations Center night-shift director during Operation Tomodachi.
“The 109th warfighters fill many key roles and several are deployed to JTF-505 and JSF-J. Nearly the entire 109th has been activated to support the 24-hour, quick-response operations tempo.”
The 713th Combat Operations Squadron is an associated unit of 13th Air Force that is based out of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., which augments Pacific Air Forces headquarters staff. A total of 100 Reserve positions from the 713th COS augment Air Force job specialties within the Air Force forces, allowing PACAF to support increased operating and personnel tempo demands.
“We are facing tough economic times with budget cuts and resource constraints, and Total-Force integration allows the Air Force to pare down its steady-state manpower, employing only the required forces," said Air Force Lt. Col. Roger Gibson, 713th Combat Operations Squadron detachment commander here. “This provides the Air Force the flexibility it needs to surge its forces during increased operational requirements, like Tomodachi, that occur with little notice.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Harwood III is the mobilization assistant to the 13th Air Force commander, who is also a civilian airline pilot. As a Reservist, he was tasked to be the PACAF chief of staff during Operation Tomodachi.
“One of the key enablers for our Guardsmen and Reservists is having a civilian employer who allows them to take time off to perform duties as part of the Total Force,” he said. “Without that employer support, we simply could not call upon the expertise of our part-time Airmen for important operations like Tomodachi.”
Only qualified and trained ANG and Reserve Airmen augment active-duty requirements.
“Total Force integration guarantees that not just anyone will be picked to help during surge operations,” Gibson said.
“Our Reserve and Guard Airmen are trained and position certified to the same standard as their active duty counterpart, he said.
“Our Airmen also come from many different backgrounds and many capabilities, with a large part of the Reserve forces being quality Airmen who previously served on active-duty and wanted to continue to participate in the military. They are quality people and we still want to capture that capability.”
In addition to leaving their families behind to defend their country, Guard and Reserve Airmen often leave their civilian careers behind at a moment's notice to respond to the needs of their country.
Air Force Senior Airman Timothy Priest, an ANG intelligence analyst from the 713th COS, has a wife awaiting his return while he supports his unit during Operation Tomodachi.
“This is a sacrifice I'm proud to make and one I'm committed to,” Priest said. “I have had to leave home for deployments when I was on active duty, so I am used to these types of missions, but I always miss being home with my family.”
Active-duty Airmen can be assured that their Reserve and National Guard counterparts are trained and ready to fill in when required.
“I regularly work with Reservist and ANG Airmen, both in the field and at home station, and I have always been able to trust and depend on the support they provide our unit,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gary Miles, a 13th Air Force spectrum manager and communications planner.
“Whenever we are short manned Guard and Reserve Airmen are always willing to jump at the chance to augment active forces for mission success.”
The U.S. military is conducting search-and-rescue missions, sea survey and providing logistics and troop movement support in Japan during Operation Tomodachi.
U.S. Pacific Command, in conjunction with USFJ, is continuing to assess requirements and available assets in the Asia-Pacific theater to respond as quickly as possible to meet the requirements requested by the government of Japan.