Sunday, August 28, 2011

476th FG works though TFI, succeeds

by Staff Sgt. Danielle Wolf
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/27/2011 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The 476th Fighter Group, a geographically separated unit of the 442nd Fighter Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo., is a classic Reserve associate unit that works with the 23rd Wing here.

The group works side-by-side in a total force mission with active-duty Airmen to maintain and operate 52 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 23rd Wing.

The group, which began in 2008 under the command of Col. Gregory Eckfeld, now the 442nd FW's vice commander, has deployed four times - three of which were before it was at its full operational capability.

"The mentality between the active duty and the Reserve here is no different," said Master Sgt. Scott Lopez, 476th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "We both want to get the same mission accomplished. There's no competition between us and active duty - they understand we're here to help."

The relationship has developed so well, in fact, that the active-duty leadership has integrated the Reserve into daily activities, said Lt. Col. Doug Batson, 476th Maintenance Squadron commander.

"The active duty invites us to things like changes of command, and we meet once a week for coffee with the (23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander) to discuss each other's issues and exchange dialogue," he said.

When the 23rd Wing requests assistance from the 476th FG, the group was happy to help, Batson said.

"We asked what we could do to help them, and they said they needed Alaskan shelters, so we requested them and got approved," Batson said. "They had a need, and we were able to meet it. The key to the Reserve forging a relationship with the active duty is communication, partnership and showing them the Reserve can be relied on."
One thing Batson said, for which the Reserve can be relied on, is training.

"Our average reservist here has 17 years of military experience," said Senior Master Sgt. Jamie Cornelia, Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. "We're seeing more and more young, active-duty Airmen who are going to our (traditional reservists) and (air reserve technicians) for training. It's a great recruiting tool and it shows what great experience comes from the Air Force Reserve."

Working with active duty holds many benefits for traditional reservists as well, Lopez added.

"It's a fast pace around here," he said. "The pace mimics the benefits of deploying without having to deploy as much. It's nonstop work, which gives all of us great training too."

Within just a few short years though, the 476th FG reservists had volunteered to deploy alongside their active-duty counterparts.

"When we first started deploying with active duty, they were hesitant to work with us, but now they're asking us for volunteers," said Master Sgt. Brian Shipman, 476th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief.

The challenges of working together have subsided for many maintainers - but not all of them. For the full-time ARTs, Lopez said, it can be confusing for active duty to understand how they are civilians working during the week, but still wearing the Air Force uniform.

"For many of the active-duty Airmen, they might work 12 to 14-hour days," Lopez said, "but we go home after an eight or nine-hour day (if overtime or credit time isn't available.) At first, our TRs were confused because they didn't know who was active duty and who was Reserve."

Over time, Lopez said, the reservists learn who is who regardless of uniforms.
Despite the challenges, Cornelia said three components have contributed to the success of the 476th FG and TFI: personality, open-mindedness and leadership's ambition.

"A lot of people were used to the old way of doing things, but you have to come in with an open mind regardless of your experience," he said.


Note the given info that 52 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft are currently assigned to the 23rd Fighter Group, 23rd Wing, Moody AFB, Georgia!

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