HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. — The 115th Fighter Wing Airmen and active-duty Airmen from the 378th Fighter Squadron stationed at Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin, participated in an air-to-ground combat competition held at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, Feb. 19-26.
Five F-16 Fighting Falcons and more than 45 Airmen deployed to compete against two other Total Force Integration (TFI) Active Associate units. The Active Associate is part of the Air Force's TFI concept, relocating active-duty pilots and maintenance personnel to Guard bases. There are currently six TFI Active Associate units in the United States.
"We're coming together as a total force to have this competition and build comradery at the same time," said Lt. Col. Jay Gibson, 378th Fighter Squadron commander. "That's the foundation of the whole TFI concept — to build partnerships and relationships. Hopefully events like this can improve the relationships between active and reserve components even more."
This was the first deployment focused on the TFI Active Associate — however, the 378th Fighter Squadron has also deployed with the 115th Fighter Wing before. The last deployment was to Łask Air Base, Poland. Staff Sgt. Roger Michaels Blais, 378th Fighter Squadron electrical environmental systems journeyman, was on that deployment, too.
"Not a lot of people get the opportunity to work side-by-side with the Guard and Reserve components," Blais said. "It's definitely opened my eyes to what the Guard and Reserve actually are, and their role in the Air Force altogether. To be able to go to another base and teach them what I've learned here will be invaluable."
Blais admitted he wasn't sure what to expect coming to a Guard unit as an active-duty Airman.
The air-to-ground combat competition allowed the deployed Airmen to do just that — work together to get the job done.
"Anytime we can deploy, it not only builds comradery, but also the ability to pick up and deploy in a real-world scenario," Gibson said. "Day-to-day, when we fly and fix airplanes, there's no difference between what the active duty does and what the guard does."
According to Gibson, they plan to start a tradition to deploy and compete with the other TFI units on an annual or semi-annual basis.
"I'm really happy with how quickly the planning for this competition came together," Gibson said. "All the components worked well with one another to make it possible. I'm proud of all the Airmen involved, and look forward to the next chance we'll have to compete against one another."