News: Only reserve AWACS unit to inactivate if FY15 DOD budget approved
Story by Maj. Jon Quinlan
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla, - The 513th Air Control Group, the only reserve unit that performs the Airborne Warning and Control System mission, is slated to inactivate if the fiscal 2015 Department of Defense budget is enacted into law.
Air Force Reserve Command's 513th ACG is currently partnered with the active duty 552nd Air Control Wing in a classic association. The active duty unit maintains control of the aircraft while reservists from the 513th ACG provide qualified crews and personnel to fly and maintain the aircraft.
"We understand the Air Force has to make tough choices in an extremely difficult fiscal environment. The proposed inactivation of the 513th is part of these tough choices," said Col. David Robertson, 513th ACG commander.
The possible inactivation of the 513th means the AWACS mission will continue solely with the active duty force flying all the required missions.
"There are 345 citizen Airmen in our unit who support and operate the E-3 AWACS. These citizen Airmen have extended America's global power worldwide for over 15 years. Most of them work and live in the local Oklahoma communities and have for most of their career. Most consider themselves adoptive Oklahomans and truly care for their communities." Col. Robertson said. "Until the proposal is enacted into law, we will continue to perform our command and control mission while staying committed and focused on the future of our Airmen."
An annual local economic impact summary, produced by the 507th Air Refueling Wing financial management office, shows that Oklahoma may feel an impact if the unit inactivates--although that impact may be lessened by increases in other units or missions. According to figures in the fiscal 2013 estimated economic impact summary, the total annual economic impact of the 513th ACG to Oklahoma was $32,901,438. That figure included a payroll of $17,807,519, local annual expenditures at $1,108,623 and dollar value of jobs created at $13,985,296.
"The 513th ACG has played a critical role in the defense of our nation serving in nearly all major operations since our inception in 1996," Col. Robertson said.
Over the years the unit provided air battle management for Operation Northern and Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, Operation Nobel Eagle, Operation New Dawn, Air Defense of the Arabian Gulf, counter-drug operations in South America and Presidential Travel Support. The unit returned from their last major deployment to Southwest Asia in November, 2012 supporting airborne command and control for Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan.
Speaking to members of his unit, Col. Robertson spoke about the importance of taking care of each other.
"You all are my number one priority. My pledge to you will be as open and honest to you as possible. We will get you information as soon as we get it," the colonel said. "Our priority is minimizing the impact of these proposed changes to you and your families."
Senior Reserve Command leadership has highlighted their commitment to all reservists impacted as well.
"We are committed to helping reservists through this transition to ensure the maximum number of reservists can continue to serve," Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, AFRC commander said. "The Air Force Reserve will operate a clearinghouse to assist affected reservists in finding new assignments, and will pay relocation expenses for individuals eligible within the Air Force parameters. The command recognizes the valuable contributions of our personnel and is in the process of developing an initiative that will inform and educate the workforce."
AFRC has a variety of programs available to employees and their families. AFRC has established a Straight Talk page on its website, http://www.afrc.af.mil/library/str8talk/index.asp, to provide information, resources and links to help reservists affected by force structure adjustments, sequestration and furloughs. Additionally, the Wingman Toolkit (http://afrc.wingmantoolkit.org/) is intended to help Reservists help themselves and each other in times of stress.
The 513 ACG activated in March of 1996 to augment the active duty force in providing theater airborne surveillance, warning and control of U.S. and allied military aviation aircraft. The 513th ACG's subordinate units include the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, 513th Operations Support Squadron, 513th Maintenance Squadron, and the 513th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Additionally, If enacted into law Air Combat Commands active duty unit, the 552nd ACW, could lose seven E-3 "Sentry" AWACS aircraft.