Chief, National Guard Bureau visit Flying Yankees for town hall discussion

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
The Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank J. Grass visited the members of the 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut, Sept. 6, 2014. During his visit he toured the base and received an update on the Flying Yankee's ongoing conversion to the C-130H Hercules aircraft. The day ended with a town hall discussion where Grass had an opportunity to talk to a gathering of the wing's Airmen.

Grass also met with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is a member of the Council of Governors. The council is a mechanism for governors and key federal officials to address matters pertaining to the National Guard, homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities.

"It's very rare that we get this kind of access to someone this high up with this kind of visibility and we're very grateful for Gen. Grass to give up his time and take an interest in our story and to meet and greet our Airmen," said Col. Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd Airlift Wing.

According to Grass, this trip was his first time in Connecticut and he said, "It's a real honor and pleasure for me to be here."

The most important thing that I get to do is exactly what we're doing right now -- to come out and see what our Guardsmen are doing, said Grass.

"I wish I could get every leader in Washington to come out and see what you do. To see the great value you bring to the military mission-- to what you do here and what you do overseas," said Grass. "And also what you do in the civilian life."

During the town hall meeting Grass primed the audience by explaining the significance of a graphic that was designed to represent the three-part mission focus of the Guard; warfight, homeland, and partnerships.

The war fighting element represents the federal mission. The mission the Guard has of supporting the active forces as a reserve component.

"About 11,000 Army and Air National Guardsmen today are deployed in 11 countries around the world," said Grass.

The homeland mission is the support given to the governor of Connecticut and other states when called upon for emergency response or management.

"Any given day right now about 4,000 Guardsmen are doing missions in the homeland," said Grass. "Throughout the year about 31,000 Air and Army Guardsmen do some kind of state active duty."

The last element involves developing and maintaining the various partnerships within communities and other countries.

"The states are partnered with 74 countries," said Grass. "Those partnerships that we have across the map now are being seen as a very strategic tool within the Department of Defense and the State Department."

"None of those three happen without you--the minuteman in the center, and that's what we have to take care of," said Grass. "I will tell you, that you are the best we've ever had."
Our readiness, individual and equipment readiness, which is maintained and operated by you, is better than it has ever been in the United States military, said Grass. Our readiness numbers are very high and in some cases that means maintaining a 40 year old aircraft like you have here today, and we thank you.

In line with equipment readiness, Tech. Sgt. Erin Rivera, a loadmaster with the 118th Airlift Squadron asked Grass if the unit would see critical updates to the C-130H Hercules aircraft.
"Every senior leader in the Air Force knows one of our top priorities in the Guard is to upgrade the C-130 fleet," said Grass.

The 103rd Airlift Wing is scheduled to receive their eighth aircraft by this month which would put the unit at its full allotment of Hercules.

"We are now inextricably tied to the tactical airlift mission and our conversion to the Hercules points to a very bright future at Bradley," said Detorie.

"Today is an historic event-- to have the chief of the Guard Bureau here in Connecticut for the first time in history," said the adjutant general of Connecticut, Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin.

As the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Grass serves as a military adviser to the President, Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and is the Department of Defense's official channel of communication to the Governors and State Adjutants General on all matters pertaining to the National Guard. Additionally, he is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.