CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Ga., August 1, 2012 – Since taking command of the Georgia Department of Defense on Sept. 30, 2011, Georgia’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, and his Deputy Adjutant General, Mr. Russel Carlson, have made clear the importance of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars. This leadership priority is no more apparent than in their renewed focus on properly vetted community support functions, such as static displays, Color Guard appearances, and the use of aviation assets.
“With DoD budgets tightening everywhere, community support efforts have to undergo a much more stringent review process than in years past,” Said Mary-Therese Tebbe, the Georgia National Guard’s Director of Public Affairs. “In addition to NGB- and DoD-wide directives to tighten up our approval processes for things like VIP flights, Georgia Guard leadership has also made it clear that we will do everything in our power to make smart choices with our budget.”
Beginning in November of last year, the Georgia Department of Defense’s review process for community events has undergone intense internal examination and analysis from the organization’s State Judge Advocate, the Adjutant General’s Office, and the Ga. DoD Public Affairs Office in an effort to improve processes and ensure regulatory compliance.
While some flights require NGB-level approval, approving authority for many types of event support is delegated to the state level. Often, Georgia’s aviation, public affairs, and legal leadership are responsible for determining whether a given mission is within regulatory guidelines set out by the United States Army. That approval, Ga. DoD authorities say, depends on a series of determining factors, not the least of which is whether or not a support flight can be coordinated and synced with a pre-existing training flight.
Flying helicopters is a highly technical skill, as well as what pilots call a “degradable skill” – that is, one which takes continuous training to maintain. In fact, in order to maintain high levels of flight expertise, the Department of the Army requires Georgia Army Guard pilots to fly a minimum of 96 hours annually. Many of these flight hours come outside of the normal once-a-month drills and require everything from night flying, to flying by instruments, to run-of-the-mill transportation flights.
Bottom line, the Georgia National Guard follows federal training requirements to keep its pilots safe and effective. But one of the things the Georgia Guard tries to do is synchronize training requirements with requests for community support. Pilots flying to Peachtree City to provide an aviation static display at an air show, for example, are getting their flight training time in, while also increasing community understanding of, and showing support for, the military at public events.
"These flights can be expensive,” said Carlson, “But these helicopters and their pilots are already allotted flight hours for training, whether there are additional passengers onboard or not. So, what we try to do is pair up training hours with community support events.
“For example, we just took legislators from the State Committee on Children and Youth to our Fort Gordon Youth ChalleNGe Academy to learn more about YCA's mission of turning young, at-risk lives around and to learn what the needs of the organization are - since the state helps fund the program. In this example, we saved Georgia's taxpayers money because these legislators didn't have to drive their cars separately then turn in fuel costs, lodging etc. – and their flight was of no additional cost, because the training flight time was already budgeted.
“We were able to sync their flight with a pre-existing, pre-approved, pre-budgeted flight time mission – all while helping to better educate Georgia's community leaders on a program that they help fund. It’s these sort of win-win systems we’re trying to put in place to provide the most amount of good for the least amount of cost."
The Ga. DoD is a state agency charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the Georgia National Guard. Located at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, the Ga. DoD includes the Georgia Army National Guard, the Georgia Air National Guard, and the Georgia State Defense Force. The organization provides ready and relevant military forces to the Combatant Commanders, and with the consent of the Governor provides command and control and capabilities to support Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities.
1st Lt. William Carraway
Media Relations Officer, Georgia Department of Defense
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