JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
Air National Guardsmen with the 176th Wing and 3rd Wing active-duty members celebrated the first anniversary of the change of assignment for eight C-17 Globemaster III aircraft based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Previously, the C-17s belonged to the 3rd WG and were shared with the 176th WG, known as a classic association of aircraft. A classic association is when an active-duty unit owns any given airframe and the associate unit — either Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard — shares the duties associated with that airframe.
The reversal of the association, called an active association, means the active duty component becomes the associate unit with the reserve component owning the airframes.
Though the “association flip” of the C-17s was the first of its kind, it did not change the Total Force Concept embraced by the Air Force.
Since the flip, both active-duty and National Guard Airmen have worked to ensure programs are maintained, and functions and missions are still being carried out.
“We didn’t slow down the mission when we transferred; we continued supporting theater and worldwide airlift operations as normal,” Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Terry Friend, 176th Maintenance Squadron C-17 avionics flight chief. “We’ve maintained 24/7 manning, 7 days a week. Each shift is mixed with active-duty and National guardsmen.”
In order to make the flip endure, both sides have worked to ensure there is proportional manpower, explained Chief Master Sgt. Eric Walker, 703d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. The aim is to make sure the reality and perception are equitable shares.
To continue steering the transition in the right direction, ANG and active-duty members hold meetings together every week to look back on struggles, accomplishments and things to improve on.
“When the transition began, we knew that it would be a big feat,” Friend said. “It wasn’t until we were in the midst of it that we discovered all the factors involved.”
One of the major changes for both active-duty and ANG was learning to operate under the ANG Air Force Instruction instead of the previous Pacific Air Forces AFI.
“As one of only two strategic airlift bases in the Pacific, our mission required a seamless transition with no diminished capability,” Walker said. “Our Airmen didn’t miss a beat, generating 1,139 sorties for 5,250 flying hours and 564 missions transporting 5,193 tons of cargo throughout.”
From the big changes to the tiny details, both sides have worked to provide continuity to the mission.
“The goal is to continue integrating programs, shops and functions,” Walker said. “While we still have a ways to go, we have laid a solid foundation for the partnership.”