Air Combat Command evaluators, augmented by National Guard counterparts, will kick off an Operational Readiness Inspection Phase Two next Wednesday. The inspectors will test the Robins Air Force Base contingent’s ability to generate sorties, get aircraft airborne and meet all taskings while under duress.
The unit posted an overall “excellent” rating in a phase-one ORI in 2010 when active duty and Guard elements were “blended” under the 116th Air Control Wing umbrella. That inspection tested the unit’s ability to mobilize – to process people, cargo and deploy.
Since that time, the operation has been reorganized under an “active associate” arrangement with the active duty component falling under the 461st Air Control Wing and the Guard element continuing under the 116th. This ORI will be the first inspection under the active associate structure.
Brig. Gen. Bill Welsh, 116th commander, said the reorganization will not impact their response to the pending ORI. Col. Dean Worley, who commands the 461st, echoed that conclusion.
“It’s still one team needed to get the job done,” stressed Welsh during a Friday morning interview. “Under the blended construct, we had Guard and active duty integrated as one team. But even though we’re two wings now, one team is still required to get the job done.”
Worley said the “one team” concept has been a focus during the year-long preparation for the pending phase-two ORI.
“We have used that preparation to reinforce the traditional team success we had under the blended wing construct,” the colonel noted. “We’ve tried very hard to make sure (the two-wing structure) will be very seamless.”
Wednesday’s start will kick off a full, three-day scenario that will require airmen to operate from an isolated, “Base X” area of the Robins installation. At that location, they will be taxed, attacked and subject to a range of simulated circumstances and difficulties. About 600 Joint STARS airmen will be involved in some aspect of the evaluation.
“It’s soup to nuts,” conceded Worley. “It’s not just flying. It’s how we defend the base, how we feed our troops, the whole nine yards. It’s very comprehensive.”
Welsh said the contingent’s mission support group will play a huge role.
“We focus a lot on our operations and maintenance teams because they are continuously deployed,” he pointed out. “But our mission support group often goes unsung. They play a vital role in day-to-day operations here and overseas. In fact, we just had a large group of our civil engineering squadron come back from a 179-day deployment supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Both Welsh and Worley are confident heading into the inspection.
“We are ready to show the IG what we are capable of and have them validate our readiness,” Welsh related. “Our airmen have been doing great things for years overseas and we’re ready to show our major command that we are ready to continue to do that.”
Worley said members from both wings have been preparing for the ORI while supporting combat operations overseas.
“I think that is sometimes lost,” he said. “We have been supporting operations in the Middle East. We’ve supported operations for other combatant commands … all the while getting ready for this. We have several airmen who have been involved in a high operational tempo down range and now we’re getting ready to shine next week.”