ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) —
Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Williams, command chief of the Air National Guard, sounded off to more than 200 Guard Airmen attending the 2023 Air National Guard Enlisted Leadership Symposium in Alexandria, Virginia.
“This is your time — this is your place!”
The three-day event themed “People, Purpose, Passion: Our Pathway to Success,” which ran from Aug. 2-4, included a variety of panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities, and offered a better understanding of how Guard Airmen fit into the National Defense Strategy.
“Think global; act local,” said Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, Air National Guard director. “Every Airman can make an impact on national security, and we need everyone to do their part on the best team in the world, which is the United States Air Force and our Air National Guard.”
During the symposium, Airmen were educated on the National Defense Strategy and how the ANG mission ties into the NDS.
“Guard Airmen must see what they do and how they contribute to our national security and our national defense,” Loh said. “Conferences like this help us spread the word to our 108,000 Airmen out over the 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia.”
The pathway to success was the premise of the symposium, as the 13th ANG command chief explained.
“People-purpose-passion—that drives success—that’s the pathway,” Williams said. “The number one thing is people—if you don’t have the people who are inspired to have that passion deep inside, you will fail.”
Throughout the ANG, there are 25 fighter squadrons, with 19 currently operating with aging legacy aircraft. With the Total Force relying on those squadrons, Williams also spoke about investing and recapitalization within the ANG, in order to maintain a competitive edge while operating 50% within the Air Mobility Command.
“The goal starting in fiscal year 2024 is to get new aircraft into those organizations,” he said. “We want to get you the most efficient aircraft that you can operate — we have 90 wings, and six wing equivalents, with 46 of them in AMC.”
The ANG has more than 1,100 aircraft and has Airmen serving in more than 160 communities. Achievement of the NDS begins at the state, local, wing and squadron levels; and the Air National Guard contributes to that.
“Air National Guard members are from every congressional district,” Loh said. “We’re from Guam to Maine and Alaska and Puerto Rico — we’re everywhere,” Loh said. “We are the United States Air Force of the nation.”
Highlights of the ELS proved beneficial, especially regarding recapitalization, as noted by Alaska’s Air National Guard noncommissioned officer of the year Airmen who participated in the symposium.
“The Guard makes up 50% of AMC, but we are not getting 50% of the KC-46 [Pegasus aircraft],” said Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Thomson, a maintenance management production specialist with 168th Wing at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Making ourselves more relevant as a component to fight the next fight … we’re going in the right direction.”
Having a level of responsibility and experience can drive better results and strengthen the Guard, and investing in the enlisted force is one way to strengthen the Guard, Thomson said.
“When we talk about people-power-passion, that is the National Guard,” said Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, SEA to the chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Educate, empower, and execute — if you think of any mission we do —we have to learn our mission, have to trust our NCOs, and give them the opportunity to succeed.”
The symposium brought a sense of hope, confidence, and a new experience for the future force within the ANG, according to some attendees.
“The reassurance, hope, and inspiration I got from listening to them [leaders] and hearing them echo our problems and what they’re doing to solve it … when I bring that back to my unit, I think that they’ll feel it as well,” Thomson said. “Being here and hearing the things that they have to say … the problems that we experience every day, it brought a human element to it that I just haven’t been exposed to before.”