Reserve Components Aviation / By COL Joseph Bishop: In my previous article I focused on how the ARNG utilizes its Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Groups as one element within a holistic aviation sustainment maintenance architecture.
The second element within that maintenance architecture and where the rubber meets the road are the 97 Aviation Support Facilities across the United States. The AASFs are the center of gravity for unit level aviation maintenance and the hub for aircrews that operate Army aircraft.
Kankakee ARNG Aviation Support Facility ILARNG is the ARNG’s newest aviation support facility. The Kankakee ASF is home to 1-106 Assault Helicopter Battalion; B Company, 935th Aviation Support Battalion; and Detachment 2 (MEDEVAC), G Company, 1-111th General Support Aviation Support Battalion. / U.S. ARMY ILLINOIS NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO
The heart and soul of ARNG Aviation lies within the AASF and associated unit activities. The AASFs are the lynchpin to supporting unit commanders in the aircrew training programs and meeting readiness objectives. The preponderance of a National Guard aviator’s flight time is flown during the week under control of the AASFs. Well run AASFs result in mission ready units. The AASFs with their operational aviation units epitomize the true nature of the ARNG.
The location of the ARNG’s AASFs range from a large city setting to remotely located small towns across the fifty states, District of Columbia and the three U.S. Territories. Similar to the Active Army, the ARNG AASFs are normally a single purpose fixed base facility or other structure that can house unit aircraft and accommodate the functions and activities that support aviation operations. The actual AASF structures today vary from legacy ARNG hangars, to facilities gained from other Services that were deemed excess, or recently constructed AASFs.
In the last ten years, the ARNG constructed ten new AASFs, built ten new Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems facilities, nine new Aviation Unit Readiness Centers, and implemented various upgrades or additions to nine existing AASFs. On the horizon we have five projects in the early stages of development and efforts to bring several more AASFs up to current construction standards.
A critical component to each ARNG AASF is the cadre of full-time support (FTS) personnel. Each ARNG AASF possesses an Army approved unit identification code that is used to collate the annual workload driven aviation FTS requirements. The ARNG annually develops FTS requirements for Aviation units assigned to the AASFs utilizing United States Army Manpower Analysis Agency approved manning models. A misconception is that these FTS models mirror the unit authorization documents, but they do not. FTS is intended to improve Reserve Component readiness and mobilization / deployment by providing a day to day unit presence and fulfilling operational and aviation maintenance functions.
All AASFs earn a standardized FTS requirement to fulfill common facility functions to include the command element and embodies a wide range of skill sets drawn from Active Guard Reserve soldiers, Federal Military Technicians and Title 5 federally funded National Guard Employees. The military technicians, as a condition of their civilian employment, maintain dual status as members of the ARNG and remain qualified in both their civilian and military position. The level of aviation specific FTS provides a capability for each AASF to train aircrew members, achieve Army regulated aircrew requirements and meet aircraft maintenance standards.
The Defense appropriation bill prescribes FTS end strength for both Reserve Components. Each fiscal year the ARNG FTS required workload (requirements) are validated but it’s the funding levels (authorizations) in line with the congressionally mandated end strength that directs the application of FTS. The Director of the ARNG has latitude to prioritize the funding (authorizations) across the entire ARNG as do the Adjutants General across their respective state, territory or district. A cause for concern in the future is that the gap between requirements and authorizations continues to widen.
Army National Guard — Warfighting-Capable, Governor-Responsive!
COL Joseph Bishop is the director of the Aviation and Safety Division for the Army National Guard, located in Arlington, VA.