WASHINGTON, July 24, 2006 – The Air National Guard is an integral part of the National Guard force and is transforming to better meet its dual roles of assisting in homeland defense and contributing to the global war on terror, the component's new director said here today. The Air National Guard is transitioning along with the total force to a more operational status, while still maintaining its traditional missions in the homeland and taking on new missions, like providing support to Army National Guard operations at the U.S. southwestern border, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air National Guard, said.
"The nature of war has changed, and we've had to change and adapt to that nature, and therefore we have become more operational. We have created a system of rotation that works well for our airmen, and we are in balance across the board," McKinley said. The Air National Guard already has started supporting U.S. border operations and will provide up to 25 percent of the Guard force involved in those operations, McKinley said. The Air National Guard will be able to sustain this level of involvement for about two years, he said.
McKinley, who was confirmed as director May 20, said he would like the Air National Guard to take on more state-level missions, which the Army National Guard is primarily responsible for now. The Air Guard can provide civil engineers, security forces and communications personnel to assist after disasters like Hurricane Katrina, he said. McKinley said he also would like to see the Air National Guard expand its operations in foreign military sales training and space missions.
Despite new demands on the Air National Guard, recruiting and retention remain high for the force, McKinley said. The last two months have shown positive gains in recruiting, and the force is on track to meet its goals for this year, he said. The Guard normally keeps airmen and soldiers for longer terms than the active force, so leadership in the officer and enlisted ranks is strong, and retention is high, he said.
The Air National Guard has a long history and enjoys a strong partnership with the U.S. Air Force, McKinley said. The two components working together will continue to provide for airmen and ensure the force is ready to meet the challenges of this century, he said. "I would just like to thank the men and women who serve in the Air National Guard -- those people who give up their free time to give to us and to our nation and their states, who work so effectively with our U.S. Air Force," he said.