The airmen of the Georgia Air National Guard are indistinguishable from the active duty Air Force, which is the way it should be, according to Maj. D.J. Spisso, C-130 pilot with the Georgia Air National Guard.
“I think it’s good for the local community to see us training,” said Spisso as he talked about Operation Global Guardian, a multi-national training exercise sponsored by the Georgia Air National Guard that included Air and Army National Guardsmen from 20 states, as well as active-duty soldiers and airmen, plus emergency medical teams from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. “It’s good for the community to know our capability and deployability.”
Spisso, who grew up near Macon but now calls Savannah home, said he spent 3 1/2 years on active duty in the Air Force then joined the Georgia Air National Guard, where he became a pilot with the 165th Airlift Wing. Now, more than 12 years later, he still serves his state and country by doing what he loves to do — fly.
According to its website, www.165.aw.ang.af.mil, the mission of the Air National Guard is to provide well-trained, well-equipped units that quickly can mobilize for war and provide emergency assistance during natural disasters or civil disturbances. Moreover, the Air National Guard provides nearly half the Air Force’s “tactical airlift support, combat communications functions, aero-medical evacuations and aerial refueling.”
Most importantly, the Air National Guard’s 106,000 airmen and officers are responsible for the air defense of the entire country.
Georgia’s Air National Guard is headquartered at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore, reports to the adjutant general of Georgia.
Its nearly 3,000 Air Guardsmen make up two flying wings — the 116th Air Control Wing and the 165th Airlift Wing — and six geographically separated units scattered throughout Georgia. Georgia Air National Guard units have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We’re part of the National Guard Bureau,” explained Col. Todd Freesemann, commander of Savannah’s Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah, which hosted last week’s Global Guardian exercise. “The Bureau consists of 106,000 Air and 352,000 Army National Guardsmen. (Global Guardian) was a huge (operation) for us, with planning for it going back nine months. It showed the capability we have, but I think it was a success thanks to cooperation from the active-duty Army and the local community, especially the airport commission here (in Savannah).”
The National Guard Bureau first was formed as the Militia Bureau more than a century ago, following the Militia Acts of 1903 and 1908, and then the National Defense Act of 1916, according to an Army history document, “The Root Reforms and the National Guard,” by William M. Donnelly.
The document, found at www.history.army.mil, said there was a need to standardize organization, training and equipment of state militias following the Spanish and American War, in which militias that were called to active duty were found to be unprepared for war.