WESTERN EUROPE - Airmen serving in the 313th Air Expeditionary Wing at an air base here are from myriad places, but they are "one team."
Those Airmen – and the planes they use for air refueling and airlift during Operation Unified Protector – are not only active duty, but also Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, a Total Force effort.
It's an effort that is supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 of a no-fly zone over Libya.
If a person were to gaze out on the flightline of this base, they might make an observation similar to that of Air Force Brig. Gen. Roy Uptegraff, the 313th AEW commander. When looking at the multitude of colors of tail flashes on the 313th AEW ramp, "General Uptegraff said the ramp looked like a 'calico cat,'" said Air Force Col. Dave Cohen, the 313th AEW vice commander.
"Thus, the 'calico wing' was born," Cohen said.
A calico cat is a domestic cat with a spotted or parti-colored coat. As an example, a recently published photo illustration from 313th AEW Public Affairs shows the various tail flash colors of the aircraft that might resemble the "spotted" coat of a calico cat.
That illustration features the colors of aircraft tails from Air National Guard units in Nebraska, Utah, Ohio, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa and Pennsylvania. It also shows Air Force Reserve aircraft from Indiana and North Carolina and active-duty aircraft from California, Kansas, North Dakota, Washington, Florida and New Jersey.
"You can't tell us apart," said Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. William Buckley, a 916th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight chief from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
"We're proud to be able to do any mission the Air Force needs us to do," Buckley said.
The aircraft belonging to the 313th AEW include the KC-135 Stratotanker and the KC-10 Extender. Both aircraft help keep the NATO aircraft covering the no-fly zone over Libya constantly refueled through a coordinated aerial refueling campaign.
On any day, aircrew and maintenance Airmen combine in caring for those tankers and in flying each plane on refueling missions. For example, there could be an aircrew from the Air Force Reserve, flying a tanker owned by the Air National Guard, but maintained by active-duty Airmen.
In addition to its "calico" colors, the 313th AEW also may be reflective of the Air Force's leadership vision of the total force enterprise.
"The ability to fashion a powerful combination of active, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components has been one of our great strengths," Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said in a September 2010 speech at the Air Force Association Conference and Technology Exposition, National Harbor Center at Oxon Hill, Md.
"We have undertaken a comprehensive review of our 142 Total Force initiatives to establish the business case analyses, combining operational effectiveness and efficiency, which will help us further leverage the Total Force concept," Donley said in the speech. "In mission sets old and new, we'll continue to look for ways to employ Total Force initiatives when they bring more capacity, more capability and efficiency to our Air Force."
Supporting those new mission sets might also be what is being done today in the 313th AEW and for Operation Unified Protector. Through the Total Force, it's a "calico" wing making Air Force history.
– Senior Airman David Dobrydney, 313th AEW Public Affairs, Air Force News and Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs, contributed.