BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Conn. –
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, Director of the Air National Guard, and his spouse, Dianne, visited Bradley Air National Guard Base, Connecticut, home of the 103rd Airlift Wing, on May 18, 2023. During the visit, Loh held a meeting with the wing’s senior leaders and spoke with members of the wing during a town hall style meeting to discuss his priorities and how the Air National Guard fits into the National Defense Strategy.
“It was fun to walk into the main hangar and see ‘Keep ‘em flying,’” said Loh, referring to the 103rd Maintenance Group’s motto as he spoke about readiness. “I mean, that in and of itself, is the readiness of the aircraft that are out there. Even under the most austere conditions.”
During a deployment to the Horn of Africa in September 2022, a team of aircraft maintenance technicians from the 103 AW showcased their ability to keep aircraft flying in austere conditions when they replaced 16 potentially defective propellers and conducted four functional check flights within five days. While the majority of the Air Force’s legacy C-130 fleet grounded, replacing the propellers on the deployed aircraft was crucial. Loh lauded the skill displayed by the 103 AW aircraft maintenance technicians during the deployment.
“When propellers were [not serviceable] on airplanes, they figured out how to make things happen quickly,” said Loh. “So, when we're looking at ‘how do I keep myself ready,’ ready starts with you.”
Loh also extolled the Guard’s wide-range of domestic operations capabilities, which received national attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yes, we can conduct law enforcement missions,” Loh continued. “Yes, we can go drive school buses. Think about the trust of the American people-- that they're willing to put their kids on a school bus with a National Guard member. We are a trusted institution…. They trust us with their personal safety and security. They trust us to deliver airpower-- anytime, anywhere. That is very powerful.”
Loh went on to stress the importance of resiliency and family readiness. The Connecticut National Guard’s Joint Resiliency Directorate (JRD) integrates Army and Air Force resiliency resources, such as family, spiritual support and crisis prevention programs. Dianne Loh met with the JRD to discuss ways to enhance resiliency and family support programs for Connecticut Guard members.
“My wife, Dianne Loh, joins me on most Guard unit visits, because she goes and takes care of the people who take care of you,” said Loh. “That's our family support, our family readiness.”
Due to the current emphasis on the Guard being “ready today and stronger tomorrow,” recapitalization of the Air Force’s aircraft inventory has been a common topic of discussion during Loh’s base visits throughout the country. According to Loh, recapitalization is the number one priority of the Air National Guard as the force looks to the future of tactical airlift. The 103 AW, which currently flies C-130H model aircraft, has been recognized by the Air Mobility Command for developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for agile combat employment (ACE) capabilities, leading the way in modernizing how legacy C-130s are employed in the operational environment. These ACE capabilities include, but are not limited to: wet-wing defueling, forward area refueling point procedures, transportation of fighter aircraft munitions, and integrated combat turn procedures. In addition to C-130H modernization, the 103 AW is optimizing its facilities and support functions for the potential recapitalization of its current fleet with a conversion to C-130J model aircraft.
“We have to be ready today, and we’ve got to be stronger tomorrow,” said Loh. “Every week I'm talking about force structure, a recapitalization plan, how we are going to get out of legacy [aircraft] while also retaining the people and the training, and all the missions that we're doing in order to get into the next series of aircraft. I know that's near and dear to this unit.”
Two weeks before Loh’s visit, the 103 AW conducted a readiness exercise which focused on ACE. The exercise assessed the unit’s ability to operate from a network of relatively small, dispersed locations while executing the multi-capable airman concept.
During a question-and-answer session at the unit town hall, Loh explained that the multi-capable airman concept, which requires airmen to have the ability to perform tasks outside of their primary Air Force specialty, is not meant to overwork Airmen or be overly time consuming.
“What I'm not trying to do is go down what I call ‘the rabbit hole’ of continuing to add more [requirements] on our airmen and airmen's time,” said Loh. “That is not the idea of the multi-capable airman concept. The idea of the multi-capable airman is that when you are in a small team, you have enough expertise to have a primary and a backup. That backup is probably not in your [Air Force Specialty Code].”
Loh and spouse, Dianne, concluded their visit at the Connecticut National Guard’s Armed Forces Day Luncheon on May 19, where Loh spoke further about the readiness and impact of the Guard.
“When we say the National Guard is always ready, always there, we're actually writing a check that is cashed just by our nature, and it’s what we sign up for,” said Loh.