MADISON, Wis. — The director of the Air National Guard got a first-hand look at the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s high state of readiness this past weekend when he visited each base, toured facilities and talked to as many of Wisconsin’s Airmen as possible.
Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, and Chief Master Sgt. Ronald C. Anderson, the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard, started his visit Friday as a guest speaker at a Wisconsin National Guard senior leadership conference at Volk Field, Wis. Rice spoke to Soldiers and Airmen about readiness and innovation, stating that it is important to recognize the strengths of each individual Guard member to help optimize their contributions.
“Every one of you has strength in you that will add to the value of our organization,” Rice said.
National Guard members bring unique strengths, skills and contributions to the military through their experiences with their civilian careers. With that, Guardsmen also face unique challenges in balancing their military and civilian careers, as well as their personal lives. Rice recognized these challenges, especially as Guardsmen prepare to deploy.
Rice told the Airmen in the room that he works for them as opposed to them working for him, highlighting that it is his responsibility to ensure Airmen have the resources they need in order to support all missions directed to them by their adjutant general and governor. He added that it is the leadership’s responsibility to find and enhance the strengths of individuals within the force. He concluded his remarks by thanking all of the service members for their hard work and the ability to work cohesively.
“I run into people every moment that I’m in uniform, day and night, that I am in awe of by what you do,” Rice said.
As the director of the Air National Guard, Rice reports to the chief of the National Guard Bureau – the National Guard’s top officer, and he is responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating policies, plans and programs affecting the more than 105,000 Air National Guard members across the 54 states and territories.
The visit to Wisconsin was one of several stops the Rice and Anderson plan to make to each of the 90 wings of the Air National Guard. The tour aims to provide key military leaders with a better understanding of the everyday experiences of Airmen, initiate top-down communication for the Air National Guard's growing culture of innovation and modernization, and to encourage Airmen to brainstorm ideas together for how the organization can continue its legacy as an essential, national asset for future military operations.
Following their visit to the leadership conference, Rice and Anderson had lunch with service members before touring Volk Field.
“It was such an amazing opportunity to meet with Lt. Gen. Rice and Chief Anderson,” Master Sgt. Charles Weyers, a munitions flight chief with the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, said. “To be able to hear from and tell our stories, thoughts and needs directly to the policy makers that shape our amazing Air National Guard is a career defining moment.”
Airman 1st Class Katie St. Clair, a material management apprentice with the 128th Air Control Squadron based at Volk Field, agreed with Weyers.
“Today’s visit was inspiring and truly eye opening,” St. Clair said. “Command Chief Master Sgt. Anderson really makes me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to.”
Rice and Anderson continued their visit with a tour of the 115th Fighter Wing based at Truax Field in Madison, Wis., on Saturday, and a tour of the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing on Sunday. It was a regularly scheduled drill weekend for both wings, providing the director and chief master sergeant the opportunity to interact with an optimal amount of Airmen.
Senior Master Sgt. Eugene Finnerty, aircrew flight equipment superintendent with the 115th Fighter Wing, hoped his interactions with Rice and Anderson would possibly allow more funding so Airmen can come in to train more days other than drill weekends.
“The importance of readiness is not taken for granted in our shop,” Finnerty said. “We must not skimp out on any training and our shop takes preparedness very seriously due to the importance of flight equipment for our fighter pilots. Since our days are limited with traditional Guardsmen, we take full of advantage of the training.”
Such readiness is crucial to an organization like the Wisconsin Air National Guard, which has no-fail missions as both the first military responder in times of emergency and as the primary combat reserve of the Air Force.
Senior Airman Joseph David, a member of the 115th Fighter Wing, said he appreciated the fact that Rice came to the wing for face-to-face interaction and allowed Airmen to ask tough questions.
In Milwaukee, Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing had the opportunity to share their military stories with Rice and Anderson.
“It was special because sometimes lower ranking individuals like me, who are at the bottom of the totem pole, don't think big leaders care about us," said Airman 1st Class Adriana Morales, an intelligence analyst with the 128th Operations Support Squadron at the 128th Air Refueling Wing. “Gen. Rice and Chief Anderson coming to take time out of their day to visit us, ask about our story, and come see what we do made me realize they care about us and that made me feel really special."
During their visit to Wisconsin, Rice’s wife Nancy spent time talking to spouses of Airmen. Many of the spouses shared about specific family readiness issues that are unique to National Guardsmen.
“It was really great to meet and talk to all of the spouses about issues affecting Air National Guard members, especially with their spouses just returning from a deployment,” Mrs. Rice said while at Volk Field.
The 128th Air Control Squadron returned to Wisconsin last winter after completing a six-month deployment.
While visiting the Fighter Wing, Mrs. Rice also toured the family program areas of the base and spoke at length with the base’s Airman and Family Readiness Program manager and the Yellow Ribbon coordinator.
Following the visit, Col. David May, the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center commander, thanked all of Volk Field’s Airmen for their contributions to in preparing and executing the director’s visit.
“Our visit with Lt. Gen. Rice and Command Master Sgt. Anderson on Friday was a resounding success,” May said. “The base looked amazing, the facilities and vehicles were ready to go, and most importantly, we were able to capitalize on the three hours we had with these amazing senior leaders to tell the story of where our three units are headed.”