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Total Force Integration bringing change - and opportunity!

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFRC) -- I have been very fortunate throughout my Air Force career to work in good jobs for good supervisors. In March, an opportunity to spend a few months at the Headquarters Air Force Directorate of Total Force Integration in Washington D.C. presented itself. Fortunately, my current supervisor happens to be a good one; Lt. Col. Preston felt that the short-term discomfort for the 302nd AW Public Affairs office would be out-weighed by the long-term benefits for the 302nd, the Air Force, and myself. 

Whether those benefits do out-weigh the pains for my Colorado office remains to be seen, but I can tell you the experience has been enormously beneficial on a personal level. I've been able to get a glimpse of the future of our Air Force and I'm excited about the changes I see.

Total Force Integration is the relatively new name of the directorate that was previously known as "Future Total Force." The goal of seeking opportunities to increase effectiveness and efficiency throughout the Air Force remains the same, it's just that the name "Future Total Force" no longer correctly identified what the directorate was doing. Sure, we are still working on future Total Force initiatives, but many of the initiatives have already been implemented or are being implemented. The future is happening now; our Air Force is changing now.

The TFI directorate is a collection of 40-50 members from the three components of the Air Force: Active, Guard and Reserve. We work with major commands (including Air Force Reserve Command) and the Air National Guard to identify missions where integration of at least two of the three components will benefit to the Air Force mission and the American taxpayers. You may ask, what is the benefit of integration? In the face of reducing active duty personnel and acquiring new weapons systems to replace legacy ones, budget dollars are tight and must be carefully managed. Combine the fiscal issue with the experience the reserve component offers and the decision to integrate makes sense.

We simply can't continue doing business the same way we always have. The global environment has changed, and the Air Force must change with it. That's where TFI comes in - we find ways to maximize the utilization of the equipment and knowledge the Air Force already has. The TFI directorate itself is a model for the integrated office. My division is comprised of Active, Guard, and Reserve personnel along with a few contractors - everyone is represented here!

This may be a new concept to many, but Active, Guard and Reserve forces are already sharing facilities or equipment at some units. For example, Guardsmen in Virginia are flying the most current aircraft in the Air Force inventory, the F-22A Raptor, with their Active counterparts in Virginia. Reservists are flying Global War on Terrorism Predator missions while seated next to Active Airmen in Nevada - fighting the war and providing incredible value on the other side of the globe.

Until very recently, reserve component members would have not had the ability to contribute to cutting edge missions like these - we traditionally received the older missions and weapons systems. That antiquated way of thinking has changed. Air Force leadership recognizes the depth of experience and skill the reserve component brings to the Air Force and is making changes to tap into the pool of resources we provide. The new associate organizations are presenting many opportunities for Reservists and Guardsmen that have never been available before.

Look around and you'll see even more of these changes throughout the Air Force. There are currently more than 100 initiatives in the planning or execution phases--including the 302nd Airlift Wing Active Associate initiative. We won't see changes in Colorado for a while, but we all need to understand that the Air Force is evolving right now. It's an exciting time for the Air Force with many opportunities for Reservists. Among the upcoming missions that offer opportunities are space operations, RED HORSE (which our civil engineers should be interested in), Battlefield Airmen, and many more.

I encourage everyone to visit the Total Force Integration web site (accessible only from government computers) and learn more about the future of our Air Force.

When the 302nd Active Associate activities finally begin, realize that we are taking part in one of the most significant changes our Air Force has ever experienced.

Change can be difficult and it's often scary because of the unknown. It's natural to resist leaving your comfort zone. When I took this tour, there had been a previous call for assistance that no one answered. I was hesitant - unsure of how my civilian job, 302nd job, and my family would handle my absence. The idea of working at the Pentagon, especially showing up as a second lieutenant, was intimidating. I had prior enlisted experience and was confident in my abilities, but I still questioned if I'd be able to cut it out here. In the end, my family and I decided to go for it and help the Air Force fill this need.

Looking back, I had no reason to be afraid. My time here has given me an incredible opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. I've helped write response letters to members of Congress, I created the draft for the July 2006 Letter to Airmen signed by the Secretary of the Air Force, I've written a speech for a Lieutenant General, and I've taken part in the shaping of our future Air Force. The change for me has resulted in a very valuable education. That's what change tends to do - it expands your skill set and makes you learn new things.

Change will occur whether we want it to or not. How we handle that change is what determines the final outcome. Don't fear the changes that are happening across our service during this exciting time - embrace them and help advance both the Air Force mission and your career at the same time!