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Off-the-shelf solutions speed new equipment to Reserve, Guard

Colonel Leonard Dick, (on left) vice commander, Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Tucson, Ariz., and Col. Eric Mann, Air National Guard director of requirements, address congressional staffers on Capitol Hill on Oct. 28.  The colonels discussed equipment modernization and the special funding program which Congress specifically provides to the Reserve Component.  The Reserve representatives were hosted by the House National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus and provided an update on cost-effective combat equipment acquisitions that are directly effecting military operations at home and abroad.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)

Colonel Leonard Dick, (on left) vice commander, Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Tucson, Ariz., and Col. Eric Mann, Air National Guard director of requirements, address congressional staffers on Capitol Hill on Oct. 28. The colonels discussed equipment modernization and the special funding program which Congress specifically provides to the Reserve Component. The Reserve representatives were hosted by the House National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus and provided an update on cost-effective combat equipment acquisitions that are directly effecting military operations at home and abroad. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- By using ideas from recently deployed Airmen and using off-the-shelf technology, the Reserve Component has developed new equipment that saved lives and led to highly successful combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This streamlined process is speeding high-tech acquisitions and was briefed by the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard to representatives on Capitol Hill here Oct. 28.

The "National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation" is the Reserve Component's primary means of modernizing its forces. Since 1982, this money has resulted in cost-effective upgrades to Reserve equipment and aircraft.

"The number one thing we've spent (National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation) on in the last few years has been the advanced targeting pods," said Col. Leonard Dick, the vice commander of the Air National Guard and Reserve Test Center in Tucson, Ariz. "We've done a great deal with moving targets."

The "LITENING" advanced targeting pod was a resounding success during the opening days of combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to Air Force officials. Air Force Reservists were asked to stay in country longer than expected because they were the only ones flying and maintaining F-16 fighter aircraft with this state-of-the-art avionics upgrade.

The targeting pods enhance communication during missions by connecting pilots directly with Airmen on the ground, providing a faster and more accurate response time.

The advantage of the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation is that it uses off-the-shelf, commercially-available technology and products. Also, new ideas come from the troops in the field and the proposals get evaluated, validated and prioritized, which results in equipment upgrades quickly getting to the combat zone, increasing mission success and saving lives.

After Congress approves the funding, the Air National Guard Air Force Test Center leads the process.

"We take the National Guard (and) Reserve Equipment Appropriation, after that process, and use those resources to effectively and efficiently turn those requirements into immediate needs and capabilities that can be deployed very quickly to help out the warfighters," said Brig. Gen. Dan Bader, special assistant to the chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.

Today, Reserve component forces are developing less costly helmet-mounted cueing systems, averaging one-third to one-fourth the normal price. The helmet is still in the testing phase; however, if it is approved it will enhance pilot situational awareness and provide faster control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors.

Other equipment upgrades will result in benefits directly felt by taxpayers at home during the Reserve's support of homeland defense missions. Unique aerial spray systems on the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown-Warren Air Reserve Station, Ohio, are being replaced using the special funding. This is the only unit within the Department of Defense with the unique capability to control disease vectors and insect populations, and disperse oil spills. The unit responds to national disasters and emergencies such as the oil spill clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Reserve speakers were hosted by Jimmy Thomas, the military legislative assistant to California Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is the co-chairman of the House National Guard and Reserve Component Caucus. The other co-chair is Rep. Tim Walz, from Minnesota. The Air Force Association helped sponsor the event.

Last year, Congress funded the Air Force Reserve for equipment upgrades of $70 million and the Air National Guard for $250 million.

During the discussion, the Reserve speakers outlined the recent Weapons and Tactics Conference held Sept. 12-16 at the Air National Guard and Reserve Test Center. This weeklong annual conference shares information from Airmen recently deployed or deploying in the near future to define critical, essential and desired capabilities. Congressional members and staffers are invited to the conference each year to meet with active and Reserve Airmen to hear their ideas and insights. The next conference is scheduled for October 2012.