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An interview with General Moisio

Brig. Gen. Rick Moisio, commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing from 2004 to 2009, reflects on his command and the future of the Air Guard. (Air National Guard photo)

Brig. Gen. Rick Moisio, commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing from 2004 to 2009, reflects on his command and the future of the Air Guard. (Air National Guard photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs office recently sat with Brig. Gen. Rick Moisio to discuss his thoughts on his command and the future of the Air Guard.

What has it been like leading this wing since 2004?
Being a wing commander is certainly the greatest honor of my life. Since joining the 162nd, we've grown from a single squadron unit to the largest Guard fighter unit. So many great people and so many great leaders have been here. 

What has been the most difficult time during your command?
The Air National Guard manpower reset was very difficult. It meant a cut in traditional positions and a significant number of full-time positions as well. We were able to take care of everybody pretty doggone well; we didn't lose anybody who wasn't either retirement eligible or wasn't able to get another job in the Phoenix Guard or the new Predator unit. Another difficult time was when the Air Force wanted to trade aircraft; taking our most modern airplanes, the Block 42, moving them to Luke Air Force Base and giving us very old airplanes. That would have made us very vulnerable to mission loss. This happened twice within a 6 to 8 month period during my command; but we dealt with it by using good logic and reasoning to support our mission. The first time this happened was approximately a year ago; the second time was in late spring of '08. 

What are some of the biggest challenges ANG wing commanders face today?
The biggest challenge is clearly retention of the mission and retention of the people. It is a constant battle. The 162nd is not understood very well, not only by the Air Force but also by the Guard because we look different than other Guard units. We are a cross between a normal Guard unit and an active-duty unit. We have all the good things of a Guard unit which are experience, continuity and ties to the community. But we also have the good things of the Air Force which include productivity. It's very difficult to get that point across - again to both the Air Force and Air National Guard - thereby keeping our traditional force size and our full-time force size. 

What are your thoughts about the future of international training here at the wing?
That is a very difficult question. There is no question at all that international relation building is absolutely critical as stated by the Secretary of Defense. As a training base we are viable for many, many years to come; the question is how long the Air Force will continue to decide that mission is enough of a priority to continue to fund it. There's a very good chance that we'll see the F-35 here; whether in a training role remains to be seen. It is logical that we will continue in Air Sovereignty Alert; that requirement, plus the weather and ranges and all of the other great things about this unit make us look very good for F-35s. I would be surprised if there isn't at least a squadron of F-35s here at some point in the future. 

What would be a logical choice for any additional or alternative missions for the 162nd in the future?
I hope the 162nd is in fighters forever. Our state strategic plan addresses a composite wing with manned and unmanned flying missions - COIN (counter insurgent) and ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft to compliment the Predator. Should we eventually shrink in fighters this plan would keep us flying. Because of our communication requirements here for the test center and day-to-day operations we should be on the leading edge of comm improvements, so the wing's participation in cyber warfare as an added mission is a very viable option. 

What do you think the wing and its mission will look like in 10 years?
I think it's going to look pretty similar to what it is right now; perhaps fewer fighter aircraft, maybe a smaller full-time force. If that is inevitable, I hope that we've acquired other missions to keep the traditional manpower and have the warning to draw down the full-timers through retirement. The demand for our current mission will still be there, again, the concern is whether it is a national priority. 

Other than accomplishing the mission, is there anything wing members can do to help the unit as we head into the next decade?
Unit members should be thinking outside the box and bringing those ideas forward. We've got some real smart folks; so keeping their 'ears to the ground' and when they hear of requirements to bring them forward in their group. That will help us in the future should we be threatened with a draw down. Also, plain old community contact - talking about our story. Be accessible to the people and help them understand our mission. Some people don't even know we exist nor our roles in homeland defense and our federal mission. 

What is the greatest contribution the wing has made in the Global War on Terror?
We've had many, many individual volunteers go into theater, and we've had a constant presence of at least a few people over there. We have also deployed portions of units; the Medical Group, Firefighters, Security Forces, and other sections too. We've also been on Air Sovereignty Alert since 9/11. Maybe our most important contribution is the relationship building and partnerships with the nations we train regularly. Those are at the heart of our contributions to the War on Terror and can't be overlooked. Several allies that we train are serving with us in theater. All of these contributions are very important. 

In what ways has the Tucson community contributed to our mission over the last four years?
First thing I would have to talk about is our Minuteman Committee. With more than 100 members, they support us both by providing funds for international visitors and by talking to Congress about our mission and making sure that we keep our mission. Also, the community has been very supportive of us particularly considering the fact that we operate fighter aircraft out of this airport and the difficulties it creates with air traffic turbulence and noise. 

In retrospect, if you could have the chance to do one thing differently what would it have been?
I wish I had gotten out more. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities or travel and not make it out there to see people. I'd try to understand all of their day-to-day activities a little better and let them know we appreciate the importance of their contributions to the mission. 

What has been your proudest moment?
It's easy to say we are very proud of our performance in the Operational Readiness Inspection and Alert Force Evaluations; three were conducted throughout my command. The recent Health Services Inspection and the outstanding score that the Medical Group achieved; all of these are proud moments. But all of that is really kind of normal for the 162nd Fighter Wing, so it's hard to single out a proud moment. Everything that goes on here makes you proud; we're flying old airplanes with student pilots in the airplane for whom English is not their first language; these things we do with an absolutely remarkable safety record. It's hard to say there is a single proud moment - the proud moment is every day.