MSG commanders discuss tough support issues at national conference Published June 26, 2009 By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs MADISON, Wis. -- Air National Guard security forces and civil engineer squadrons will be mobilizing at an increased rate over the next few years. With a large population of those critical support functions deployed, there will most definitely be an impact on day-to-day missions at home stations across the United States. This is just one of the many important issues concerning the ANG today. The 115th Fighter Wing hosted more than 120 ANG mission support group commanders and deputy commanders at an annual conference held June 22 through 26 at the Marriott West Hotel, Madison, Wis., to talk about these key issues involving mission support. The annual week-long conference consisted of briefings, guest speakers, networking opportunities, a forum for idea sharing and problem solving, a question and answer panel, and training for new MSG commanders. Briefers from all over the country and from each component of mission support, to include security forces, civil engineering, force support, communications, logistics and contracting, spoke to the commanders and deputies about the latest trends, current MSG issues and what to expect in the future. There were also briefings by National Guard Bureau officers on the future of the Air Expeditionary Force and banding systems, the fitness program and fiscal year 2010 and 2011 funding considerations. Although the topics were very informative, the opportunity to network with one another is perhaps the biggest advantage to attending the conference, said Col. LeRoy Dunkelberger, 157th Air Refueling Wing MSG commander and Chair of the MSG Council. "When you start learning and meeting people on a more personal level, you are liable to get a lot more support and there tends to be a greater understanding of issues when meeting in person," said Colonel Dunkelberger. "Having that face-to-face interaction can be invaluable." Brig. Gen. Roy Uptegraff III, 171st Air Refueling Wing commander, spoke to the attendees June 23 and said the conference is an opportunity for all MSG commanders to come together to learn about policy changes and organizational shifts, share experiences and "lessons learned," and develop a community of fellowship that "promotes confidence and support" for making future leadership decisions. Another advantage of the MSG conference was providing another avenue for up-channeling issues to the senior-leadership level. "All of this improves the ability of the ANG Director, Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, to better distribute resources and sustain the viability of the wings," said General Uptegraff. "The MSG conference findings can also influence the director's policy making decisions to ensure Air Guard readiness for both state and federal missions are met." Brig. Gen. John McCoy, Wisconsin Air National Guard commander, was also a guest speaker at the conference. General McCoy served as a MSG commander while assigned to the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, before transferring to Wisconsin's Joint Force Headquarters. Once on the receiving end of guest speakers at the conference, the general discussed the number of challenges being faced in the MSG community today. Some of these challenges include an ever-changing operations tempo, aircraft recapitalization, budget reductions and personnel issues, General McCoy said. "We need to ensure we take great care of our members, their families and their employers, to ensure we continue to provide the best support to the mission," said General McCoy. "The MSG commanders provide the critical support our states and nation require. Support isn't just part of the name, it's what they do and I am very optimistic about the future." In addition to general MSG issues, General Uptegraff also spoke to attendees about issues concerning the entire National Guard, citing the top five issues currently being worked at the ANG level. These issues are concurrent and proportional recapitalization of ANG resources, reworking the maintenance group manpower requirements, a manpower study for a non-twenty four hour command post, inactive duty training periods for non-aircrew operators and precision recruiting initiatives for undermanned career fields. The conference attendees are seasoned professionals with a wide range of experience, which is evident by the number of first-time commanders present in contrast with the number of veteran MSG commanders, said Colonel Dunkelberger. For the newest commanders and deputies, a "MSG 101" component of the conference took place throughout the week and was aimed at assisting new commanders with their increased roles within the MSG world. "The idea is to give them a perspective on leadership because there is really no definitive training or course for a new MSG commander. You have to be knowledgeable in a lot of different fields," said Colonel Dunkelberger. "You can't be an expert in all of them, but what you can do, is be an effective leader and that's what we aim to do with MSG 101." 181st Intelligence Wing MSG commander, Col. Don Bonte, made the trip from Indiana to attend this year's conference. He admitted that there is always someone who's been doing the job longer than he has but said everyone is very knowledgeable and it's nice to meet the experts face-to-face. "There are a lot of different ways to up-channel issues, sometimes you have to attack issues from multi-fronts to get the attention that an issue needs," said Colonel Bonte. "It's a chance to compare notes on how you resolve a particular issue or how to minimize the issue on your organizations ... which can ultimately benefit every Airman."