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Perdue praises 'blended' Robins unit

Saturday, November 23, 2002  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Governor-elect says state should try to emulate 116th Air Control Wing

By Gene Rector
Macon Telegraph Staff Writer

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE - Gov.-elect Sonny Perdue drew a parallel Friday between the cooperation he sees in the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base and what he expects in his new administration.

The Bonaire resident, who will be sworn in Jan. 13, spent part of Friday morning touring the 116th's Joint STARS ground surveillance aircraft and talking with a large number of Georgia Air National Guard members and active-duty members in a nearby maintenance hangar.

The 116th is the Air Force's first "blended wing," the lead element of what Air Force Secretary James Roche calls "future total force." Personnel were pulled from Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Bomb Wing and the active-duty 93rd Air Control Wing. Both wings were deactivated Sept. 30 to form the new unit.

"I like this style," Perdue said, referring to Guard and active-duty members working side-by-side in the same unit. "It's the way Georgia government should operate. Our mission should be to serve the people and we need to get it done with the best people available."

Perdue, who met with some 80 state agency heads Thursday, said, "All I asked them to do was work with me - give me the liberty of putting a team together where we can have a single mission, just like the 116th."

The governor-elect told the more than 200 people in attendance that he was excited about the 116th's new role.

"Future total force is pretty good stuff," he said. "I like the future. I'm a futurist. I can't do much about the past but I'm an eternal optimist."

He said Joint STARS, or Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, was "an awesome platform for an awesome mission."

The Boeing 707 airframe is equipped with a 24-foot, canoe-shaped radar that can detect ground movements at ranges in excess of 150 miles and relay target data to Army ground units.

"If I were a ground troop," said Perdue, "I would just be thrilled that J-STARS is up there. This is a totally future mission to keep our troops safe and protect America. It's a great concept for our Guard here in Georgia."

Col. Tom Lynn, 116th commander, said it was a privilege to host Perdue.

"He knows who we are, what we stand for and what we've done. That's not only an honor," he said, "but it also makes the troops feel like their new commander and chief really cares about them."

Maj. Gen. David Poythress, the state adjutant general, said legal questions remain should the governor wish to activate the entire 116th.

"The wing contains Title 32 Guardsmen and Title 10 active-duty Air Force members," said Poythress who attended Friday's visit by Perdue.

"Title 10 airmen don't technically answer to the governor. They answer to the president," Poythress said. "As the law stands now, I think the governor would be legally entitled to activate only Title 32 airmen."

Title 10 U.S. Code outlines law for active-duty forces, while Title 32 governs Guard units. The rules prohibit a Guard officer from commanding active-duty troops.

Currently, Lynn - a Georgia Guard member - commands the 116th in conjunction with Col. Mark Hall, an active duty-officer. Lynn has overall operational control per a cooperative agreement with Hall, but Hall retains administrative and military justice authority over the active duty element.

Poythress said he expects Congress to pass legislation to resolve the issue in the near future. "Certainly, the president has first call on the wing," he said.

"But in the case of a natural disaster - which is about the only time the governor calls up the Guard - there would probably be no conflict between the state and federal mission."

Following his visit to Robins Air Force Base, Perdue traveled in a Black Hawk helicopter to Bonaire Elementary School, just south of the base. There he spent about 20 minutes speaking to children and school staff.