Selfridge Makes Case for New Aircraft Assignment

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Senior officers at Selfridge Air National Guard Base are making their case to the Air Force in a bid to see Selfridge named as a home base for a major new aircraft now under development. Michigan's top general also said this week that he is confident that earlier, planned cuts in aircraft assigned to the 95-year-old base are not going to happen.

"I think we have a very bright future at Selfridge and we are now going to be in a growth mode," said Major Gen. Gregory J. Vaidnais, the adjutant general of Michigan.

National Guard leaders at Selfridge are working on two aircraft proposals - along with the jobs of the Airmen who fly, maintain and support the aircraft:

· The KC-46A aerial refueler is now in the development stage and is scheduled to begin to be received by the Air Force in 2016. The Air Force announced in May that an active-duty Air Force base would receive the first squadron of the aircraft, beginning in Fiscal Year 2016. The second main operating base (MOB) for the tankers will be an Air National Guard Base and will begin receiving the aircraft in 2018. Selfridge leaders want the Michigan base to be considered for the KC-46A.

· An FY13 federal budget proposal had called for the elimination of a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters at Selfridge. That proposal has since been quieted by congressional  debate and now, Vadnais said,  the only debate is if the Air Force will increase the number of A-10s assigned to Selfridge from the current 18 to 24 aircraft.  Beefing up the jet numbers would align with  bringing in an active-association to the squadron, with a contingent of active duty Airmen to work alongside the Michigan Air National Guardsmen.  Active-association is also a desireable unit configuration for the Air Refueling Group.

Vaidnais, 127th Wing commander Col. Michael Thomas and other senior leaders presented detailed information on the base and the 127th Wing to Gen. Raymond E. Johns, commanding officer of Air Mobility Command, during an Aug. 23-24 visit by Johns to Selfridge. Air Mobility Command, one of the largest major commands in the Air Force, oversees operations of all Air Force refueling and cargo aircraft, including the KC-46A.

Since 2008, Selfridge's 127th Air Refueling Group has operated KC-135 Stratotankers, a refueler that has been in Air Force service since the late 1950s. Prior to that, an Air Force Reserve unit operated KC-135s at Selfridge.

"Our Air Refueling Group Airmen have been tested by battle, by numerous contingencies both domestically and overseas, and have demonstrated the highest possible level of excellence," Thomas said. "In addition, we believe Selfridge has the physical assets to make it an ideal location to base America's next refueler."

Gen. Johns remarked of the 127th Wing's global efforts, "AMC responds to two kinds of calls - natural disasters and man-made disasters; and we (AMC) respond.  You respond."  He emphasized, "Michigan has earned some recognition."

The basing criteria for the MOBs include mission (proximity to refueling receiver demand, airfield and airspace availability, fuels considerations, and the potential to establish an association), capacity (hangar, runway, ramp space and facility considerations), environmental requirements and cost factors.

DEPLOYMENT TOTAL
Vadnais made his comments about the future of Selfridge during a town hall meeting Aug. 23. During his meeting, he praised the Airmen of Selfridge for their continuing service at home and on deployment.

"Right now there are about 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen of our Michigan National Guard who are deployed," the general said. "You are doing the work, making Michigan proud and, most importantly, paying the price required to keep our country safe."

Gen. Johns had the opportunity to recognize a few 127th Wing Airmen for their significant contributions to Air Mobility Command missions during his visit.  Lauded were the crew of "Elite 51" who, after refueling an F-18 over Southwest Asia, escorted the jet to safety after it lost operation of one of its engines; MSgt Jerry Morgan, 127th deployment manager, who in a period of three years has been intimately involved with the deployment of more than 2,250 personnel and 416 short tons of cargo from Selfridge; and, MSgt Mike Kerr, whose outstanding planning and maintenance coordination while deployed led to the scheduling of more than 1,360 sorties without failure.

"I look to the Guard and Reserves to be my senior people," Johns told the group.  "You are the best in the aircraft, the most experienced.  We are constantly training in the active duty, but the Guard and Reserves turnover is low and you are the folks who completely understand the weapon system and the tactics." 

With approximately 1,700 Airmen assigned, the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is the host organization at Selfridge, flying the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, which is an air-to-ground attack fighter.  The wing has had KC-135s and crews deployed to the Central Command theater on a rolling mobilization constantly for almost a year, and has engaged in multiple other deployments globally from Guam to Estonia during this same time period.  The wing also supported a large deployment of the A-10s to Afghanistan at the end of 2011. The Airmen at Selfridge support the Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and the Air Force Special Operations Command.

More information on the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base is available at www.127wg.ang.af.mil.