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Total Force Integration Summit in Wyoming teaches lessons learned

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Department of Defense and Military Seals are protected by law from unauthorized use. These seals may NOT be used for non-official purposes. For additional information contact the appropriate proponent.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Airmen from around the country joined in Cheyenne, Wyo., Wednesday for the Total Force Integration Summit, in an effort to share ideas and discuss issues surrounding active associate programs.

The active associate operation is an integration model where a reserve component unit has the primary responsibility for a weapon system which is shared with one or more Active Duty units. A classic associate is the opposite, with a reserve component using an Active Duty weapon system.

The summit allows for current and future active associate units to not only discuss the road forward but also to experience a unit in action at the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing, where the Active Duty 30th Airlift Squadron has functioned under the operational control of the Wyoming Air Guard since 2006.

The 30 AS was the first-ever Active Duty Associate of this type between the Air Mobility Command and the Air National Guard. The squadron operates Wyoming Air National Guard C-130s.

The active associate configuration consolidates Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Active Duty forces while providing an efficient and effective use of national resources.

Wyoming Air National Guard Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Harold Reed, said the summit and active associate configuration is important because it represents the future of the United States Air Force.

He said the summit allows those involved in current associations, and those who are starting to form them, to meet together and discuss what has worked and what has not.

"It's very important that people exchange lessons learned and don't reinvent the wheel," Reed said.

Ultimately, he said, the active associate idea and implementation is a responsible use of taxpayer's money which uses weapons systems and personnel in a responsible and efficient manner.

Still, the theme discussed more than anything was that of building relationships between the National Guard and Air Force Reserve forces with Active Duty counterparts.

Deputy Group Commander for the 19th Operations Group, out of Little Rock Air Force Base, Lt. Col. Jared Curtis, said building relationships is one of the most important elements of total force integration.

"Relationships, they matter. They are job number one," Curtis told the group of nearly 200 summit attendees. "You (have to) make sure that is all up and down the chain. You have to get to know the faces out there."

Wyoming Air National Guard 153rd Airlift Wing Commander, Col. Dennis Grunstad, agreed. He said relationship building is a key element in making the active associate initiative successful.

Grunstad said the integration at the Wyoming Air National Guard with the 30 AS has become a model for other units to observe. He said Wyoming has found a way to make the active associate unit work.

Lt. Col. Mark Hedlund, director of operations at the Alaska Air National Guard headquarters, visited Cheyenne because his state is looking to start a C-130 active associate unit. Currently, the Alaska Air Guard has a classic associate with a C-17 outfit.

Hedlund said that combining what they have learned from the Wyoming Air Guard's 30 AS lessons learned, they are able to apply that knowledge to future units in Alaska.

"We're going to gain a lot by the (Wyoming Air Guard's 30 AS) paving the way and our C-17 associate," Hedlund said. "We're getting a lot out of (the summit)."

Before the end of the day, summit attendees toured the Wyoming Air Guard where representatives were staged for discussion and interaction on how separate areas function on a daily operational basis.

With the Wyoming Air Guard nearing its fourth year of the first-ever active associate unit, the integration has moved beyond the stand-up and is well into sustainment.