A NEW ERA OF TOTAL FORCE

Beale Air Force Base, Calif. --

In December 2004, I was given the privilege of standing up one of the first Air Reserve Component's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance  "associate" units - the 234th Intelligence Squadron, California Air National Guard - fully integrated in ISR combat operations with the active-duty 548th ISR Group at Beale Air Force Base. 

Since that time, this unique relationship has been increasingly recognized by the active duty and Air National Guard alike as the new model for Total Force Integration.  The latest praise came after a visit to Beale Air Force Base and the 548th ISR Group by Lt. Gen. Ray Johns, HAF/A8, and Maj. Gen. "Buddy" Titshaw, acting director, Air National Guard. After seeing the active duty, Reserve, and California ANG Airmen of the 548th fighting the war side-by-side without any deference to organizational affiliation, the generals proclaimed that, indeed, the organizations at Beale represented the new model for TFI. Maj. Gen. Titshaw reported to the National Guard Bureau that "the Beale units represent the way ahead." 

So what is it that makes this TFI venture so successful where so many others have struggled or failed? I am often asked this question, accompanied by a request to produce a coveted directive document or Memorandum of Agreement detailing how our TFI organization was constructed so that they can replicate it elsewhere. Our MOA is not the Holy Grail they seek, and the ubiquitous assumption that an MOA can even be one is in fact one of the reasons that many TFI organizations are not successful. While I do not contest the necessity of guides and MOAs, an over reliance on these kinds of documents is a dangerous crutch that, in fact, can undermine trust and mutual commitment to the relationship, as I will explain later.
 
But before I start to define some of specific steps that can lead to success or failure, let me tell you what the true core of a successful TFI venture is: 

The level of success of a TFI organization is dependent on a deeply held conviction of both the active duty and ARC commanders that their individual component organizations cannot be successful without the complete success of their partner. 

I have seen too many TFI organizations struggle as they hold to the inverse philosophy of this principle where individual component successes are held paramount, trying in vain to use the integrated TFI organization simply as a means to achieve their individual goals.
 
In the case of the 234th ISR Squadron's integration with active duty, the process started at the very first meeting between the 548th ISR Group commander and me. I committed a substantial part of my staff to working on the group staff to fill critical need areas in active duty. In return, the 548th Group commander committed the space and training my squadron required in our conversion to the ISR mission, and took substantive steps to place my Air National Guard squadron on equal footing with the three existing active-duty squadrons in the group. 

Once each organization understands and commits itself to the success of the partner, the symbiosis will begin. While neither organization will lose its component's identity (and I must emphasize this is never a goal of integration), both the integrated organization and the external stakeholders will recognize that successes and failures will be measured less and less by individual component goals, and more and more by the collaborative integrated organization's mission successes. 

There are some supporting concepts which must be applied by the TFI commanders to demonstrate the core commitment to each other that I previously referred to: 

First, there must be a commitment of all leadership involved that this is a time that cries out for organizational culture change. The needs of the TFI organization will not be met unless there is a willingness to try new concepts and break some of the old precepts we have come to know in active duty, but especially in the National Guard. The mere fact that we are going down the road of an increased reliance on TFI is indicative of the need to do things differently. Our Airmen cannot be asked to do things so drastically different in the areas of TFI organization and asymmetric warfare without being able to change and adapt to that new environment. 

The first time that I and my active-duty group commander invited my California National Guard leadership to Beale to see TFI in action, I knew that our future success hinged on their acceptance of new ways of doing business. We had initiated changes in many areas, including how to accomplish required drills, annual training, and the application of Title 32 (state) manpower. You cannot imagine my relief at the end of the briefing when Maj. Gen. William Wade, the California Adjutant General; Maj. Gen. Dennis Lucas, commander, CA ANG; and, Brig. Gen. Mary Kight, Assistant Adjutant General for Air, said at the end of the briefing: "We need to use the steps you outlined for future TFI efforts in the state." This willingness to adapt to a changing environment and trust in the judgment of the field commanders is a key part of how our military has functioned, and needs to continue in this new era of TFI. 

The second and third concepts relate to the actions of each component organization. I will assume for illustration the basic arrangement of an ARC squadron integrating into an active-duty organization group, such as we have at the 548th ISR Group. On the part of the active duty, they need to adhere to a philosophy of a complete adoption of the ARC unit in every aspect. The time of integration for the ARC unit will be a difficult one for them. The active duty needs to take all steps to ensure that "their" ARC unit is taken care of. Actions to take are: giving the ARC squadron equal voice with the active-duty squadrons and equal input into the decision making of the group; ensuring that the ARC squadron is given sufficient space, equipment, and training; and, providing a "senior" voice speaking on behalf of the squadron to the higher headquarters of both the ARC and active-duty organizations. 

I always have to laugh inside when asked to detail the biggest difficulties I encountered when integrating with the active duty because when I first started to mentally list these difficulties, the toughest ones were not associated with working with the active duty. Most were associated with convincing some part of my own component of my needs and cultural changes I needed to implement. I could not have possibly overcome these obstacles without the constant senior support of both my ANG leadership and the 548th ISR Group commanders. At the briefing to my state leadership that I referred to earlier, the 548th ISR Group commander endorsed the need for every change I had implemented. And when I needed a unique action by the National Guard Bureau, my active-duty group commanders have always worked in complete concert with my National Guard group commander in addressing the issue. 

People often wonder why I give so much credit to the active duty for the successful integration of the 234th ISR Squadron into the 548th ISR Group. It is this principle of complete adoption that is at the heart of my assertion. While many in the ANG had worked so hard to establish my unit, the final execution required tremendous energy of the active duty to support my Airmen. Yes, I can make all the internal decisions and changes required for integration, but without the prerequisite adoption and support from the active duty, every one of my actions would have been futile. 

The third concept is the responsibility of the ARC component. The commander must instill in his organization a complete realization and acceptance that they are not in competition with the active duty for taking credit for mission leadership, decision-making or success. Quite the contrary, the reality of our situation is that there is ONE lead organization in the integration. Unity of command and effort must be implemented at all costs. Many TFI organizations fall because the ARC component's commanders insist in implementing their ADCON decisions without respect to the impact of those decisions on the active-duty mission. In an integrated organization there is no "ADCON" issue that does not affect the operation, morale or functioning of the entire integrated organization. 

I, my active-duty group commanders, and my active-duty squadron commander counterparts always involve each other in ALL problem solving or disciplinary actions. There is no doubt in each case where the responsibility for ADCON action resides, and no illusion as to the fact that there are different "rules" that we are to adhere to when administering component actions such as disciplinary action. But there must be a realization that consistency between the organizations should be the goal to ensure overall good morale and interaction between active-duty and ARC members. As individual members of each component organization see the other dropping organizational barriers and becoming mutually inclusive in duties and outside activities, the synergy becomes unstoppable. The sharing of "internal" issues and working together to their resolution achieves morale and mission effectiveness that could not have possibly been achieved by either component acting alone. 

Let me now address the incorrect perception that having a magic MOA specifying roles and responsibilities can serve as the foundation of a TFI organization. It bears repeating that I do not contest the need for such a reference document, but TFI is much more than establishing minimum efforts and boundaries that are usually found in MOAs. If you recall the guiding principle I laid out in the beginning of this article, you will see that all members of the TFI organization must be striving to do everything they can for the new integrated organization, not constantly referencing a contract that constrains what they can, can't, or must do. When both organizations see that as the organization evolves, the commanders and personnel can gradually stretch the boundaries to grow trust and mutual reliance to areas that were not previously envisioned, that is where the real magic occurs. 

I will conclude with an observation: I have heard references too many times to the existence of competing active duty or ARC "sides" of any given issue. If there is one feeling that can kill TFI faster than any other, it is thinking that there exist distinct positions on issues which leaders of each component should take to represent the best interests of their one organization. The new integrated TFI era mandates that the complete Total Force be the only organization that matters, and the mission of a new integrated organization is paramount. Again, recall the guiding principle I laid out that both organizations are reliant on the success of the other. If the commanders truly believe and act consistently with that principle, it eliminates any possibility of an existence of any "side." The previous goals of the component organizations are completely transformed into the goals of one new single organization, and the desire to achieve that integrated organization's goals permeate into every activity of every member of the new organization, regardless of previous component affiliation. That is what we have been able to achieve at the TFI organization known as the 548th ISR Group, and that is what needs to happen across the Air Force in the new era of TFI.