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Total Force for Team Tyndall

  • Published
  • By Col. David Silva
  • FLANG Det 1 commander
Since 1999, the Florida Air National Guard Headquarters Detachment 1 has provided a total force footprint within the 325th Fighter Wing and the formal training unit mission. In response to a pilot shortage in the late 1990s, the active duty Air Force and Air National Guard partnered to create the first ever Air National Guard Associate Unit in the fighter community. Through a combination of full-time and part-time F-15C Eagle Instructor Pilots and enlisted support personnel, the FLANG helped ensure that Tyndall continued to graduate the world's greatest Air Superiority pilots for the Combat Air Force.

In 2006, Det. 1 began migration from the F-15 to the F-22 Raptor and the Air Dominance mission. With the departure of the F-15s from Tyndall, the FLANG redirected some of its excess manpower to the emerging F-35 Lightning Formal Training Unit mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Today, along with our Air Force Reserves counterparts, the Air Reserve Components account for one-third of the F-22 Instructor Pilot positions within the 325th FW and just under 30 percent of the initial cadre of F-35 pilots in the 33rd Fighter Wing. FLANG members contribute on a daily basis as squadron director of operations, flight commanders, functional office chiefs, first sergeants and in numerous wing and group staff positions.

Besides simply providing manpower, Det. 1 provides some of the most highly experienced fighter pilots in the Air Force. Det. 1 pilots average over 16 years of flying experience and 2,500 hours of fighter time in numerous aircraft including the F-22, F-15, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Warthog and AT-38 Talon. Most have been deployed several times and many have extensive combat experience.

Instead of losing this valuable experience as military members transition to civilian employment, the Air National Guard, through the use of the Traditional Guard (part-time) program, is able to keep individuals in the Air Force family and retain critical expertise at a fraction of the cost. In addition to costing less, a direct benefit from this construct is the incorporation of an even more diverse civilian experience skill set into the Air Force mission. Among many other skills, members gain critical aviation, communication, computer and leadership skills at no cost to the Air Force that can be directly transferred to their military jobs.

In an era of reduced budgets and fiscal belt tightening, the Air National Guard and the associate unit concept provide an incredible bargain for the taxpayer. In addition to retaining expertise and the extremely expensive price tag associated with gaining that experience, the Guard saves money every day in other ways. Most Guard members commit to an organization for the long term (more than ten years). This commitment saves permanent change of station costs and more importantly dramatically reduces the costs of retraining new members. The average time to train a new Formal Training Unit instructor pilot is four to six months and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. By minimizing turnover, the 325th FW is able to keep costs to a minimum, reduce the need for new Instructor Pilot upgrades and ultimately produce more F-22 graduates for the Combat Air Force.

The associate unit concept combines the best of both worlds. By bringing together the experience and continuity of the Air Reserve Components with the operational currency of the Active Duty, the 325th Operations Group is able to assemble a team of Instructor Pilots that has the wisdom of age while possessing the enthusiasm of youth. The more experienced Air National Guard pilots have the opportunity to pass on lessons learned from their years of flying and Formal Training Unit experience, while the active duty pilots bring the latest tactics from the operational units and insight from positions on higher headquarters staffs.

Total Force Integration began as a small scale experiment and has grown into entire fighter wing associations throughout the Combat Air Forces. FLANG HQ Det. 1 was there at the beginning and continues to work with the 325th FW to set the standard for successful Total Force Integration.