General Smoothes Over Edges in Maxwell AFB Changes

Air Force commanding General Michael Moseley he is trying to smooth over a big change in how America's airmen manage their service.

Instead of distinct National Guard, reserve or active duty units, they'll all serve together.

General Moseley says the Air Force has to, "Leverage the limited resources we have available to increase our combat and homeland defense capabilities."

Because Moseley is asking Air Force managers to do more with fewer people, that raises some real questions about how much commanders will ask of service members.

For instance, the combined unit idea means the Montgomery Wing could go overseas as a single unit to provide contingency surge capability.

After the first Gulf War, the 187th served in both northern and southern Iraq, enforcing no fly zones and United Nations sanctions.

Now, with President Bush planning to pull back all but a few thousand troops from Iraq, it seems likely commanders will have to rely on air power to protect those troops.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama says, "It is absolutely critical and must always be so that the United States be able to dominate the air in any kind of conflict we get into today."

So, it seems logical to expect one thing: more deployed duty for air guard wings like the 187th.

But Moseley won't confirm that need yet.

Of course, no one can say what will happen in the future, but the 187th's commander, Col. Jeff Smiley, gave a couple of clues in his latest's commander's note to his group.

Among other items, he said the wing faces an operational readiness inspection in October 2008 which he called the most important in the wing's history.

In his words - 'Big decisions are being made now and over the next couple years at the National Guard Bureau, Air Command Center and Air Force headquarters.

National guard officials say Thursday's announcement also indicates the 187th's future in Montgomery seems secure.

Col. Smiley says the wing will get five new aircraft no later than September 2008.

The new headquarters and fuel and maintenance buildings under construction at Dannelly Field are on schedule for completion next year.