176th Wing gets approval from inspectors

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Anchorage's hometown Air National Guard unit earned good grades in a recent inspection by its Air Force parent unit.

Visting the 176th Wing over a four-day drill period, inspectors from the Honolulu-based Pacific Air Forces gave the wing an overall "effective" rating, terming the wing's drill period "very successful."

"We've proven through this inspection that our Airmen are among the best," said the wing's commander, Brig. Gen. Donald S. Wenke. "I couldn't be more proud."

To demonstrate its capabilities for the inspectors, the wing participated in the joint exercise POLAR GUARDIAN 14-02. During the course of this exercise the 176th Wing flew more than 130 missions, including air drops of Army and Alaska Army National Guard troops, cargo/ personnel movements and simulated rescue events. The exercise also included a simulated plane crash with responses by wing firefighters, security forces and medical personnel.

"The exercise was robust for the entire wing," noted the inspection team leader, Col. David G. Vanderveer, Jr., in a report to PACAF Commander Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle.

The inspection marked a new approach to gauging wing readiness. In past inspections, held every four years or so, PACAF inspectors would scrutinize each of the wing's individual units amidst a burst of activity. That approach has changed. The new routine calls for unit inspections to be done on a year-round basis by the wing's own Inspector General's office. The role of the PACAF inspectors, therefore, will be more limited: Instead of inspecting each unit they will inspect the wing's own inspection program; talk to the wing's Airmen and get a sense of their concerns; and look into specific issues highlighted by the Airmen and/or wing leadership.

None of the wing's graded areas were rated less than "Effective," and one of the most important -- "Executing the Mission" -- was considered "Highly Effective."

"Overall, the 176 WG is highly effective at executing all their mission sets," the report concluded. "In 2013, rescue forces responded to 444 SAR incidents and logged 123 saves. Through May of this year, they have already investigated 159 incidents and saved 32 people. The three rescue squadrons maintained a constant alert presence, enabling an immediate response when called upon. Additionally, the wing supported Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and DAMAYAN; participated in six diverse exercises, supporting multiple MAJCOMS and sister-service objectives; conducted two local humanitarian operations and supported air sovereignty missions."

The inspectors praised the cooperation between the Alaska Air Guardsmen and their active-duty and reserve counterparts.

"The [active-duty and Guard] leadership at all levels have a good relationship, and when faced with manpower or support constraints, leaders proactively engage with one another to meet mission requirements," the report noted.

The inspector's bottom line: "The 176th Wing's 'Midnight Sun Guardians' stand ready to execute their State and Federal missions."
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