LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
The director of the Air National Guard arrived in style at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here Friday, landing aboard a new C-130J Super Hercules being delivered from the Lockheed-Martin factory in Marietta, Georgia.
Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, accompanied by his wife, Dianne, then spent the next two days touring the base, meeting with Airmen and learning more about the unique mission sets of the 123rd Airlift Wing, which range from tactical airlift and explosive ordnance disposal to special tactics and the only operational contingency response group in the Air National Guard.
The wing, which just earned its 19th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, is currently transitioning to the modern Super Hercules aircraft, replacing eight C-130H transports dating to the mid-1990s. Friday’s delivery marks the third such arrival for the 123rd.
The highlight of Loh’s visit was a “town hall” style meeting in which he fielded numerous questions from Airmen. Loh also took the opportunity to thank the Airmen and their families for their service, and to discuss his five top priorities — readiness, partnerships, people, force structure and policy.
“If you hear nothing else today: Thank you,” Loh told the audience. “But it’s not just you. I want you to go home tonight and thank your families and your friends who support your service in our United States military. We don’t do this alone; we do it as a community.”
When it comes to readiness, Loh stressed the importance of both personal and organizational preparation.
“Am I ready to go to combat in a moment’s notice?” he asked. “Will I be lethal when I get there? Will I be mentally resilient? And then there is the readiness of my entire unit in order to deliver combat air power for America.
“The National Guard has been called to do just about everything” over the past two years, Loh said, from responding to fires, earthquakes, floods and tornadoes to helping fight COVID while providing direct support to a full spectrum of U.S. military operations overseas.
That kind of flexibility would not be possible if the Air Guard weren’t especially good at building and maintaining partnerships, he said. These start at the local level, with most Guard members holding down jobs in the civilian sector. But they also include close working relationships with local government agencies and emergency responders, state government agencies and the governors of the respective states and territories. From there, the Guard’s partnerships grow to include federal agencies, the United States Air Force, its major commands and even foreign allies through the State Partnership Program, which pairs individual Guard units with independent nation-states.
Of course, none of this would work without a continued focus on the Guard’s people, Loh said.
“The people side of this is absolutely critical, because we’ve got to get that right,” he told the audience. “It's not just you, but it's your families. It’s the employers. It's making sure you have the right tools.”
At the same time, the Guard needs to recapitalize its nuclear enterprise and modernize its force structure, Loh said.
“Thirty years of continuous mobilizations and conflict has worn out the jets on our ramps,” He said. “And so we have to do a conventional modernization. Getting the right number of resources into a long-term plan and getting that over to the White house, over to Congress, and then having Congress fund us and make us whole — that’s tough. We're sitting on a lot of legacy platforms.
“And then finally, we need to get the policies right,” Loh said, hitting his fifth priority. “We have to make sure that in every one, from the highest level Secretary of Defense policy, all the way down to the instructions that I sign and I write, we can take care of our drill-status Guardsmen.
“I never want to get to a point where I have an active duty-only mindset or an active duty-only way of doing business, or the policies in place mean I can't get a drill-status Guardsman to come into the formation. The National Guard is what allows us to fight a 30-year war of continuous mobilizations and not lose the will of our people.
“Thanks again for all you do. We’re all part of the nation’s defense, that foundation for America. You live it every day. Go Guard.”