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    A Michigan Air Guard member goes to Europe

    A Michigan Air Guard member goes to Europe

    Courtesy Photo | U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Tackett, a member of the 217th Air Operations Group,...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Andrew Layton 

    110th Wing

    RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – In early 2011, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert “Coach” Tackett had just joined the Michigan Air National Guard’s 110th Wing at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. After nine years as an active duty aircraft maintenance officer, followed by a three-year break in service, he missed the sense of service that came with wearing the uniform. He was ready for a new adventure.

    The path waiting for him was about to deliver beyond his wildest expectations.

    “Four months after joining the Air National Guard – and while attending my first annual training period – I was asked to support an operation in Libya called ODYSSEY DAWN,” said Tackett, who reported for duty as a U.S. Airman aboard the U.S.S. Mount Whitney, one of two Blue Ridge-class command ships of the U.S. Navy. The U.S.S. Mount Whitney served in the Mediterranean Sea as the main command vessel for the United States' involvement in the coalition campaign aimed to enforce a Libyan no-fly zone and prevent Muammar Gaddafi's forces from attacking the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

    Other members of Tackett’s unit, the 217th Air Operations Group (AOG), also supported the ODYSSEY DAWN operation aboard the U.S.S. Mount Whitney and from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “Serving on the Mount Whitney was quite a surprise, but a great opportunity to work with some amazing folks and apply my active duty experience in a unique way,” Tackett said.

    The 217th AOG is a component of the 110th Wing also based at Battle Creek with a rare mission to provide reserve-component augmentation for the 603d Air Operations Center, based at Ramstein. The 603d AOC provides the planning, command and control of integrated air, space, and cyber power in support of U.S. Air Forces Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA).

    While Tackett expected to settle into life as a part-time (traditional) guard member, seven months after returning home from ODYSSEY DAWN, the 603d AOC asked for volunteers to staff a newly-forming “battle watch” team. After a brief family discussion, the Tacketts decided to move to Germany for a one-year tour.

    “While working with the 603d AOC to conduct future operations planning, my interest in working in the theater grew,” said Tackett.

    Along with a team comprised mostly of Air National Guard members from the 217th AOG, Tackett drew on his previous experience from the ODYSSEY DAWN Joint Task Force, helping the battle watch fulfil its mission as the initial staff response element to crisis events.

    “It was often hours of peace and quiet, followed by moments of sheer chaos,” he said. “I finished the year as battle watch officer on the desk when Benghazi happened; the weeks following the attack were some of the most challenging I have had.”

    Having experienced the big-picture impact a single team member can make in this environment, Tackett left Ramstein in October 2012 with the hope of returning one day. Months later, he received a call inviting him back as an operational planner. After three years on orders, Tackett was hired as a civil service employee in the USAFE-AFAFRICA A3 (operations) division, while simultaneously continuing his service as a member of the Michigan Air National Guard.

    Nearly a decade has passed since Tackett first became involved with USAFE-AFAFRICA operations during ODYSSEY DAWN. Since then, he has touched strategy and planning efforts for nearly every major operation or exercise USAFE-AFAFRICA has supported, including the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015, theater MQ-9 operations, Bomber Task Forces, and enduring support for U.S. European Command’s annual Austere Challenge exercise, a multi-continent training event integrating the capabilities of the U.S., NATO and other partner nations.

    “I really found a passion for planning,” said Tackett. “I have been involved in planning all the pieces that make operations sustainable and executable, from simply planning the movement of aircraft from one location to another, to crisis response.”

    Tackett is also quick to emphasize that just as the Air National Guard has provided him with extraordinary professional opportunities and flexibility, the ANG also presents active duty decision makers with a powerful strategic asset to surge capability and experience when required. This idea of blending active, ANG, and Air Force Reserve personnel and equipment in support of the overall Air Force mission is known as Total Force Integration (TFI).

    “TFI isn’t just a cool acronym – the active duty elements rely heavily on guard and reserve members to ensure effective operations in every area of responsibility,” said Tackett. “The other cool thing about being a guard member is that most of our active duty peers can’t tell the difference between who is guard and who is active duty. This really speaks to the quality of support that guard and reserve elements provide to our active duty component.”

    Tackett’s service, even while off duty, continues as commander of the Civil Air Patrol’s Ramstein Cadet Squadron. The Ramstein Cadet Squadron is the largest overseas Civil Air Patrol squadron with about 150 senior members and cadets. He has held the position of squadron commander since the fall of 2019.

    While his time at Ramstein Air Base will finally draw to a close later this year, Tackett plans to remain with the Michigan Air National Guard as a traditional guard member, while continuing stateside in a civil service role to mentor other crisis action planners and operational planning teams, sharing best practices he has helped to refine across the Air Force.

    “It’s not the job you have, it’s the job you do,” Tackett said, reflecting on his experience at USAFE-AFAFRICA. “The ANG provides opportunities that can take you anywhere you want to go if you are willing to put forth the work to get there; just because your job description may be set doesn’t mean you can’t get that work done and do more – the ‘more’ can bring you exposure to things you probably couldn’t have imagined.”



    Date Taken: 03.01.2021
    Date Posted: 03.01.2021 05:01
    Story ID: 390173

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