TUCSON, Az: Nearly 1,200 Air Force warfighters are meeting here in late October to decide on what’s needed to succeed in future battles and missions.
This year’s Air Guard and Reserve Weapons and Tactics Conference is the biggest ever, said Col. Jon Mott, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center commander in Tucson.
The AATC hosts the conference each year with support from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and the Arizona Air Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing.
The growth of WEPTAC is from an expansion of integrated combat missions between the active duty Air Force, Air Guard and Air Force Reserve, including space and cyberspace missions and other developing missions, Colonel Mott said.
“All of those warfighters have requirements too,” he said. “They are now involved in the fight.”
He added that WEPTAC continues to provide experienced warfighters the platform to “voice their requirements” for the year and to get them prioritized and published.
“It’s a way to ensure the Air Guard and Reserve’s weapons systems stay modernized and relevant,” he said.
In the past, Colonel Mott remembered chairing an A-10 Thunderbolt II working group as a weapons officer from the Massachusetts Air Guard.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said.
WEPTAC is now so successful that the Air Guard developed a similar conference for its domestic operations, called the Domestic Operations 10 Essential Requirements.
Colonel Mott said WEPTAC is also an opportunity for Guard, Reserve and active-duty Airmen to coordinate a shared mission need, outside the “stove-pipe” of one weapons system.
For example, “the HH-60G (Pave Hawk) Airmen, the A-10 Airmen and the (pararescuemen) meet for their individual weapons systems and then for a mission area, where they all sit down and say, ‘Hey, we as a community in this mission area need this type of modernization and this type of equipment,'” Colonel Mott said.
The byproducts of WEPTAC are a tactics improvement proposal and a research, development and acquisitions book, which is a critical list that’s developed and prioritized here by the combat-experienced warfighters, as, “the five most important, critical things that they need,” Colonel Mott said. Mission area discussion and coordination is also considered a “valuable” byproduct.
As Air Force warfighters, busy with day-to-day operations, deployments and inspections, Colonel Mott said they rarely get to sit down and talk with their wingmen at different states and commands.
At the HC/MC-130 Hercules aircraft working group, Maj. Jeremy White from the Alaska Air Guard’s 211th Rescue Squadron, chaired the discussions on those aircraft that are specially equipped for refueling combat search and rescue missions and/or supporting special operations.
“We are basically talking about requirements we need to make us more capable,” he said. “The biggest things that we are trying to do is determine what we need now to keep us operating in the war and what things we need in the future to keep moving forward.”
Major White said some of the older aircraft in their fleet are nearing the end of their useful life spans. So the newest J-model C-130 was “a big topic of discussion. I’m trying to get the right person, talking about the right subjects. And I’m also trying to get the right people in the room to converse, so by the end of the week we come up with good solutions.”
There were nearly 31 Guard and Reserve warfighters facilitating that working group, all having a lot of experience and knowledge on the HC/MC-130.
Major White’s group then joined working groups from the HH-60G combat search and rescue helicopter and ground Airmen to confer, develop and integrate their solutions in shared missions.
A good example is in data links, Major White said. “If we all talk together on (shared) missions, then we have to ensure what we (ask for) here works across those platforms.”
Defense industry representatives also hosted an “Industry Days” display of their weapons and wares nearby. A few of those representatives attended weapons system working groups.
“They (warfighters) all sit down with the defense industry to see what they have available and to take that and coalesce it into a useful product so that we can push forward in the next year,” Colonel Mott said.
WEPTAC is often called the “voice of the war fighter,” and Colonel Mott said that popular phrase means the voice of “iron” captains and majors and “iron” staff sergeants and technical sergeants or those Airmen involved in combat operations. “They say what they think is the most important here,” he said.
Major White agreed that their weeklong efforts are an important voice.
“Something must occur where we get all the users in the know out there, those who are using the equipment every day in touch with the higher-up’s in our chain of command, as far as procuring the monies, the contracts and the equipment,” Major White said. “They need to hear from us and know what we are seeing on a day-to-day basis.”
These warfighters have one, weeklong goal to prepare a polished “out-brief” for Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, the Air Guard director, and Lt. Gen. Charles S. Stenner Jr. , the commander of Air Force Reserve Command. They, in turn, will use the information along with DOD and elected officials to make decisions that support and defend the nation and its allies.
“This is their one opportunity during the year to hear what warfighters have to say on what’s needed for combat as part of the total force,” Colonel Mott said.