Winds of change at Niagara

Storm front

by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Caya

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. — The first ever Air Reserve Component combat delivery Association between the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard is ending.

As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, the 107th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard relinquished their KC-135 aircraft and became the 107th Airlift Wing. It was decided by the Department of Defense and the Air Force that the 107th would associate with the Air Force Reserve’s 914th Airlift Wing. This meant both wings would fly and maintain the same C-130 airframes in their unique situation.

“Through cooperation between the leadership of both wings the Association between the Guard and Reserve was successful,” said Col. Walter Gordon, 914th Airlift Wing commander.

Despite the success of this partnership, change is a constant within the military environment.

As a consequence of a more recent force structure announcement, it was decided the 107th would cease flying C-130s and no longer be associated with the Reserve, added Gordon.

“That means that procedures and sharing of duties we have set up will cease on December 31st of this year,” said Gordon. “Both wings have flown and maintained the same 12 airframes and as of December 31st that will not happen anymore.”

“To smooth this process, we have signed an operations memorandum of agreement and we are going to sign a maintenance memorandum of agreement where from January 1st to December 31, 2014, 107th Airmen will be able to assist 914th Airmen fly and maintain the aircraft on a limited basis,” said Gordon. “This is to help them keep their C-130 proficiency while they transition to their new mission flying Remotely Piloted Aircraft.”

“In the long term, this change will benefit the 107th,” said Col. John Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing commander.  “We are moving into a newer mission. The 107th has converted missions every five years, it seems, and the RPA mission will stick with us for a while.”

Changing missions brings a plethora of challenges to the guardsmen as they adapt to their environment.

“One of the biggest impacts for the 107th is that we go from 830 people to 609, so we will have less people and eventually we will go down from a wing to a group,” added Higgins.

Another big impact deals with the mission directly, said Higgins. While the 914th prepares and actually deploys to the war zone or forward operating location, the 107th Airmen, because of the RPA mission, will walk into a room and be where Central Command needs them to be via the RPAs.

In regards to the airlift mission Higgins said, this was the one base that embraced the association and really worked at it. The wings overcame many large and small challenges to make it work.

“We figured it all out and went though all those battles; now, we’re pulling it apart,” said Higgins. “In a perfect world, I would have loved to have kept it a few more years but I also see that we are breaking off and we have an opportunity to work on a ‘sunrise mission’ with the RPAs.”

“During the Association the 914th and 107th became more efficient,” added Higgins.

The Wings used less people to get more use out of “The Iron,” meaning a normal C-130 unit has eight aircraft; Niagara had a combined 12 aircraft between two flying squadrons, so the units covered twice as many deployments with only 50 percent of the equipment needed.

“I think the Association was a great idea,” said Higgins.  “It was one of two Air Reserve Component Associations…they tried it, I think we did it very well–we were highlighted at the Operational Readiness Inspection in 2012 as the best association seen by the Air Mobility Command inspection chief, so I think we excelled at the Association.”

Higgins stated there is difficulty sustained in the constant retraining Guardsmen go through when their mission changes however, change is inevitable in this branch of the military.

“We’re constantly evolving in the Air Force,” said Higgins.  “This is just one of those steps. We’re used to the change; we’re used to the mission changes… some people handle change better than others, but our folks are resilient.”