COLUMBUS, Ohio – As the Air Force’s 75th birthday nears, the service is transforming – bringing change that requires Airmen to get comfortable being uncomfortable, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. told National Guard leaders gathered here Saturday.
“I reflect on the fact that our service was created on a foundation of innovation and forward thinking, and how we must harness that mindset and exploit change to transform from the force we have today to the one needed to meet our pacing challenge,” the chief of staff of the Air Force said. “We’ve done this before, and I’m confident we can do it again.
The greatest security threat America faces, Brown said, is military modernization and the dangers posed by China and Russia. He said the National Guard will be part of the solution.
“The Guard plays a key role in addressing these complex challenges, and Air Power is vital and in high demand,” Brown said. “I know it. Our Air Guard knows it. And combatant commanders have proven this with their continued ask for more Air Power.”
Airmen can’t assume the service’s current capabilities and posture will be relevant forever, Brown said.
“This transformation requires us to look at our posture,” he said. “To look globally at how our Air Force should be postured over the next 10- to 20-years based on threat-driven requirements … [it] requires change and difficult choices.”
Throughout his career, the Air Force’s most senior officer has seen the National Guard’s contributions, and he cited numerous examples from his time commanding a fighter squadron that included Guardsmen to the present.
Brown was U.S. Central Command’s air component commander during the Defeat ISIS campaign.
“The Guard was continuously deployed and fully integrated into the campaign, seamlessly working side-by-side with the active duty,” he said. “Matter of fact, you couldn’t tell where one component ended and the next began.”
Among other examples of Air National Guard contributions to the Total Force, Brown praised the Missouri National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing, who fly the B-2 Spirit out of Whiteman Air Force Base.
“They recently returned from a deployment to Australia, where they partnered and trained with the Royal Australian Air Force, providing full-spectrum expeditionary B-2 Global Strike combat capabilities, sending the message to both our adversaries and our allies and partners that … our Air Force can provide Air Power, anytime, anywhere.”
New York National Guard crews with the 109th Airlift Wing flew Brown to Antarctica on a ski-equipped LC-130 Skibird.
“We will be challenged in the most austere conditions, to include both the Southern and Northern Arctic regions,” he said. “Our day-to-day operations demonstrate we are always working, always building, always preparing, and always deterring. Thanks to the New York Guard for the unique capability you provide.”
The CSAF also noted the California National Guard, which has conducted more than 1,000 exchanges with Ukrainian armed forces over almost 30 years through the Department of Defense National Guard State Partnership Program or SPP.
“Some people may be caught off guard by Ukraine’s skill in battle,” Brown said, “but I can assure you the California National Guard wasn’t, because they’ve been training together for the past few decades.”
California is partnered with Ukraine in the 93-nation SPP that aligns state and territory National Guards with foreign nations in support of combatant command security cooperation objectives.
“That’s the payoff when you invest in partnerships, and what campaigning during peacetime can lead to in conflict or crisis,” Brown said.
He called forward presence, conducting exercises and training, strengthening alliances and partnerships and maximizing interoperability – the ability of military units and their equipment to operate together – all areas where the Guard is exceptional.
The Alaska Air Guard’s close integration with their active duty C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft counterparts; the Kentucky Air Guard’s rescue of people and dogs after July’s flooding; the Wyoming Air Guard’s support to U.S. Forest Service wildfire fighting; the more than 600 Air National Guard members who provided safe passage to Americans and Afghan allies during Operations Allies Welcome and Allies Refuge last year – all examples Brown cited that speak to the Guard’s ongoing contribution to the Total Force.
In discussion after his remarks, Brown highlighted the need to switch from the long-established facilities familiar to many service members to a concept of building austere quarters from scratch, operating for short periods, then tearing down and moving in potential future conflicts.
He also emphasized the doctrine of taking initiative in the absence of orders, a crucial American advantage against adversaries.
“In an environment where a lot of things are going to be uncertain?” he said. “You can’t sit waiting for instructions. You’ve got to go out and execute.”
Brown’s bottom line? Transform. Modernize. Embrace change. Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
“We certainly can’t drive change without the collaboration and support of the National Guard,” he said. “The National Guard is critical to our nation’s defense. You have unmatched experience, expertise, and unique mission sets … gained from your dual civilian-military identities, and share them with our active component counterparts and with our allies and partners.
“The National Guard,” the CSAF added, “is there for the nation and is truly at the heart of it all.”