By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, May 22, 2015 – The Hawaii Air National Guard trains and mobilizes to execute operational, disaster response and humanitarian missions for the state and Pacific Air Forces under U.S. Pacific Command.
The 154th Wing, the largest wing in the Air National Guard, has a dual mission to serve the state and provide operationally ready combat and support units and qualified personnel during a time of war, national emergency, operational contingency or disaster relief response, said Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Scrivner, 201st Intelligence Squadron commander.
“[This wing] of Total Force airmen provides a different, diverse perspective on how to conduct operations … and Hawaii Air National Guard stays focused on being ready to do federal missions, such as integrated flying operations, maintaining [aircraft] and command and control,” he explained.
Nepal Earthquake Response
Crewed primarily by Hawaii Air National Guard members, the C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet, “the Spirit of Kamehameha”, landed in Kathmandu May 5 with Pacom’s 36th Contingency Response Group and active duty airmen from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, wing officials said. The team includes a cross section of pilots, mechanics, medical personnel and others bringing aid and relief to Nepal, whose beleaguered citizens continue to recover from a magnitude-7.8 earthquake on April 25.
Additionally, Hawaii ANG’s fleet of F-22 Raptors and KC-135 Stratotankers bring fighter jet and air refueling capabilities beyond the state of Hawaii and Pacom’s vast area of responsibility, but also to missions with U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command and others, Scrivner said.
The colonel asserts Pacom and other combatant commands and agencies can rely on the integration, skill and readiness of the Hawaii Air National Guard.
Those skill sets remain sharp and adaptable though large-scale exercises such as Vigilant Guard, which Scrivner said help ensure Hawaii Air National Guard members are able to respond on a moment’s notice, both locally and globally.
Scrivner said new and varied challenges arise daily due to the region’s size, climate changes, and other factors. The airmen, he said, “are always stepping up. They all want to be ready. They all want to busy. And they all want to be mobilized if they’re called upon.”
Air Force Airman 1st Class Dillon Nguyen, 154th Maintenance Squadron egress systems apprentice, helps to maintain the ejection system of the wing’s F-22 fighter jets.
“Basically, I give the pilots a second chance to escape when all goes south,” Nguyen said. “Hopefully they won’t have to use [the ejection system], but when they do use it, it better work.”
Overseeing the training, tasks and motivation of airmen such as Nguyen is 26-year Air Force veteran Chief Master Sgt. Michael Gabster, 154th Maintenance Group superintendent, responsible for more than 800 airmen.
Total Force Integration
The chief, a prior active-duty Marine Corps enlistee, said he’s witnessed the evolution of the Total Force concept shortly after his 2005 arrival to the Hawaii Air National Guard, when in 2008 the wing’s 204th Airlift Squadron joined Hickam Air Force Base’s 535th Airlift Squadron to become the first Total Force Integration unit outside of the mainland.
“We actually formed up our TFI unit even before the [Defense Department] guidance came out … but we’re in such a good spot right now where everything’s clicking and working,” Gabster recalled. “Active-duty airmen are here with us all the time so we have a huge focus on readiness, [and] we review training weekly and monthly with higher leadership.”
The years of experience and continuity that seasoned Hawaii Air National Guard members bring to the wing’s young motivated airmen have helped ensure an enduring, valuable footprint in the region in support of the combatant commander, Gabster said.
He added, “Everybody here is pretty much from someplace else … locals, active duty … we all come together to make it happen, and it’s just a wonderful experience.”