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Active Associate competition builds comradery

Crew chiefs listen to a pilot as he describes the jets current status following landing at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., on Feb. 21, 2016. The Airmen deployed in support of an air-to-ground combat competition between the current Total Force Integration Active Associate units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Crew chiefs listen to a pilot as he describes the jets current status following landing at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., on Feb. 21, 2016. The Airmen deployed in support of an air-to-ground combat competition between the current Total Force Integration Active Associate units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Pilots from the 176th Fighter Squadron and the 378th Fighter Squadron gather prior to their flights at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Feb. 22, 2016. The pilots, stationed at Truax Field in Madison, Wis., deployed to Homestead ARB to participate in the first air-to-ground combat competition between Total Force Integration Active Associate units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Pilots from the 176th Fighter Squadron and the 378th Fighter Squadron gather prior to their flights at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Feb. 22, 2016. The pilots, stationed at Truax Field in Madison, Wis., deployed to Homestead ARB to participate in the first air-to-ground combat competition between Total Force Integration Active Associate units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

A 115th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over the Avon Park Air Force Range in Avon Park, Fla., during an air-to-ground combat competition Feb. 23, 2016. The jets were deployed to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., to participate in the first competition between Total Force Integration Active Associate units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

A 115th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over the Avon Park Air Force Range in Avon Park, Fla., during an air-to-ground combat competition Feb. 23, 2016. The jets were deployed to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., to participate in the first competition between Total Force Integration Active Associate units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. -- The 115th Fighter Wing Airmen and active-duty Airmen from the 378th Fighter Squadron stationed at Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin, participated in an air-to-ground combat competition held at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, Feb. 19-26.

Five F-16 Fighting Falcons and more than 45 Airmen deployed to compete against two other Total Force Integration Active Associate units. The Active Associate is part of the Air Force's TFI concept, relocating active-duty pilots and maintenance personnel to Guard bases. There are currently six TFI Active Associate units in the United States.

"We're coming together as a total force to have this competition and build comradery at the same time," said Lt. Col. Jay Gibson, 378th Fighter Squadron commander. "That's the foundation of the whole TFI concept - to build partnerships and relationships. Hopefully events like this can improve the relationships between active and reserve components even more."

This was the first deployment focused on the TFI Active Associate, however the 378 FS has also deployed with the 115 FW before. The last deployment was to Łask Air Base, Poland. Staff Sgt. Roger Michaels Blais, 378 FS electrical environmental systems journeyman, was on that deployment too.

"Not a lot of people get the opportunity to work side-by-side with the Guard and Reserve components," Blais said. "It's definitely opened my eyes to what the Guard and Reserve actually are, and their role in the Air Force all-together. To be able to go to another base and teach them what I've learned here will be invaluable."

According to Blais, he wasn't sure what to expect coming to a Guard unit as an active-duty Airman.

"One thing I've learned after coming to a TFI base is that Airmen are Airmen no matter where you go," he said. "Active, Guard or Reserve - we're all here to get the job done."

The air-to-ground combat competition allowed the deployed Airmen to do just that - work together to get the job done.

"Anytime we can deploy, it not only builds comradery, but also the ability to pick up and deploy in a real-world scenario," Gibson said. "Day-to-day, when we fly and fix airplanes, there's no difference between what the active duty does and what the guard does."

According to Gibson, they plan to start a tradition to deploy and compete with the other TFI units on an annual or semi-annual basis.

"I'm really happy with how quickly the planning for this competition came together," Gibson said. "All the components worked well with one another to make it possible. I'm proud of all the Airmen involved, and look forward to the next chance we'll have to compete against one another."
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