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Air Forces Associate Unit Arrives At Birmingham

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Buckner
  • 117ARW/MXS
Webster defines the word "association" as an organized group of people who share a common interest, activity, or purpose. Pretty good word I think. Looking back through American history, we enjoy freedoms and liberties won by our forefathers and their associates. We all know that our Nation's first war for liberty was fought by regular military, reserves, farmers, and minute men fighting together for a common purpose. So now we have a new term for a very old concept; "Associate Wing". 

I've heard a variety of opinions regarding our soon to be association with the active duty Air Force. They range from fear of taking Guard Jobs to hopes of added missions and welcomed BRAC insulation. The one constant opinion, and one that will surely prove factual, is we are destined for change. Not just the normal change that stems from modernization of equipment or mission but change that will alter the very foundation upon which our organization was built. Since most of us are more comfortable with status quo, it isn't surprising that there may be a bit of apprehension. A feeling, not foreign to those of us who were around during the last major change, as we transitioned from our recon roots to aerial refueling. I think we would all agree that THAT change turned out pretty well. After all, throughout the long history of our unit we see many periods of association. Today we seldom deploy without working along side our Active Duty counterparts. During transition to the KC-135R we housed a considerable contingent of Active folks for several years as we formed a new tanker wing so this is nothing new to most of us. Even still, we see apprehensive postures all over the base. 

Last year, many of us deployed down range to work with a large group of active AF maintainers who came from a base that recently associated with a guard unit. Their association (organizationally different from that with which we are faced) was rocky from the start and resulted in a lack of cohesion and confidence between the Active and Guard members at that base. So when I went down range with them as a Guard Chief serving both Active and Guard maintainers, the fruit of the friction from their experiences at home station was evident. I witnessed, first hand, how the resulting preconceived notions caused negative mission impact in an AOR where there was little time for such problems. The experience proved to be a very pungent example of what NOT to do in regards to our association. 

We must organize our thoughts now with the ultimate common goal to do everything possible to avoid the aforementioned situation. We should make plans to ease the tension of the coming change and be opened minded to our new brothers and sisters and their needs. It is crucial that we help them form a positive opinion of the Guard from the start and have a productive and satisfying career experience. Just as we have always strived for the same with our members. There is no doubt in my mind that the outstanding men and women of the 117th will step up, as we always do, to be the model associate wing. I know we are all proud that our wing was selected to pioneer this particular type of association and we should be. But ultimately, it's up to each us to make it work. After all, we all wear the same uniform with the common purpose so there is no need to be apprehensive. Let's embrace the concept. Thank you for your service.