Wednesday, March 3, 2010

188th Fighter Wing beats odds, surmounts many obstacles en route to successful present

From The Flying Razorback, March 2010 public online PDF issue, I extracted the following very interesting Commander's comment. The Flying Razorback is the official newspaper of the 188th Fighter Wing (Arkansas Air National Guard), Fort Smith, Arkansas:

188th Fighter Wing beats odds, surmounts many obstacles en route to successful present

By Col. Thomas I. "Tom" Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander

FORT SMITH, Ark. — As our main body gets ready to deploy in our unit's first combat deployment in the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the phrase "against all odds" comes to mind as I think about what we had to overcome to complete our conversion and get ready for this deployment. In 2005, "against all odds," we saved our flying mission with A-10s being assigned to replace our F-16s that BRAC took away.

Time and time again the deck has been stacked against us, but because of the experience, excellence, ingenuity, and professionalism of our unit, we as always, have found a way to excel when the challenges are great. Below are just some of the challenges we have had to overcome during this period.

Manning document, training slots and end strength. As we began our conversion, we had to help the National Guard Bureau develop a new manning document for 18 PAA Guard A-10 units. Once developed, we had to implement this document, which entailed hiring several new positions.

During this time, we also found ourselves with a shortage of maintenance training slots. In spite of a shortage of training slots for the Maintenance Group, we were still able to develop ways to get everyone trained in their A-10 jobs. Once BRAC was
finalized, our end strength was in the low 90 percent range.

The new A-10 manning document not only gave us different and new A-10 jobs, it gave us more jobs, which lowered our end strength even further. In an era where less than 100 percent end strength means less funding, we rose to the challenge and we exceeded 103 percent end strength.

PE conversion, wing cracks, UCI and avionics modifications Once we started getting comfortable in the A-10A, we had to send our A-10As off to get the Precision Engagement or "PE" A-10C conversion. In the middle of this conversion within a conversion, the world- wide A-10 fleet experienced problems with wing cracks, grounding nearly all A-10s.

This left us with only one flyable airplane on our base in January 2009, and we had to send pilots and maintenance folks to Baltimore to fly just enough to keep our currencies and check out a few pilots in the A-10C.

In the middle of all this, we had to take a UCI, which we had not done since the early to mid 1990's. As usual, with the odds against us, we knocked the UCI out of the park and set the standard for not only the Guard, but also active duty fighter units.

Less than a year ago, we started getting our airplanes back from the PE conversion line and wing crack repairs. Then it was time to start our A-10C conversion in earnest. This left us with less than a year to finish our conversion in the A-10C and get ready to go to war.

Because we were in conversion, we had not done much night flying since fiscal year 2006; so, over the last year we had to do a lot of night flying to prepare for our deployment. As we started to fly the A-10C last spring, we had to send off our jets to Boise, Idaho, a few at a time, to get avionics modifications.

This took away aircraft from our base and made it more difficult to produce the required sorties for the flying schedule. In addition to this, we had to deal with other fleet-wide problems like nose gear cracks, which made it even harder to produce the sorties we needed to fly.

As you can see, the odds were against us as we prepared to fly our A-10Cs into combat. The obstacles were many and substantial, but once again this unit met head on and overcame all of these challenges. We could not have done this without the entire unit working together.

For example, maintainers repeatedly used their experience and ingenuity to develop fixes for the many problems our airplanes were plagued with, often working after hours to repair our airplanes. As they did all of this, they established themselves as a leader in the A-10 maintenance community.

Many unit members worked endless hours to help us and the National Guard Bureau implement a brand new manning document for 18 PAA A-10 units. Also, many worked hard to procure parts to fix our jets when other units could not get those parts for their jets.

Our recruiters and retainers, which includes each and every one of you, increased our end strength from the approximately 90 percent to over 103 percent. Everyone worked long and tedious hours to set the standard during the UCI and become, as the IG team chief said: "Our go-to unit for UCIs."

On March 1, 2010, we completed a long and difficult journey to complete our conversion. Also, on March 1, 2010, a 188th Fighter Wing pilot flew this unit's first A-10 combat sortie. Without the help of each and every one of you, I would not have been able to write the previous two sentences. Thank you all so much for your professionalism, expertise, patience and perseverance that allowed this unit to change mission and excel in the process. Job well done!


No comments:

Post a Comment