KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. -- The 173rd Fighter Wing mission is set to grow by an estimated 84 active duty personnel this fall. The Total Force Initiative is designed to augment Kingsley's mission with Air Force active duty airmen stationed at the Air National Guard base in order to increase the number of pilots trained in a given period of time.
"We expect 84 Airmen will be phased in to Klamath Falls over a six month period beginning this October," said Col. Jeremy Baenen, 173rd FW Commander.
TFI is an acronym used to describe a military organization which has both reserve and active component members working side-by-side in the same organization for a common mission. According to Baenen, there are various models of TFI's, this one constitutes an "active association" where the 173rd FW retains principal responsibility for the mission, equipment, and base infrastructure, while active duty personnel are integrated in the 173rd's existing organizational and command structure.
Of the 84 Airmen, eight are pilots, 68 are maintenance personnel, and an additional eight will provide base operating support. The first Airmen are scheduled to arrive in Klamath Falls in October of this year.
In addition to personnel, the 173rd will continue to expand its growing fleet of F-15s with the addition of seven aircraft that began arriving six months ago. The aircraft additions will grow the unit from 25 aircraft to a total of 32 aircraft by the end of this summer. Even with the addition of these aircraft, the 173rd will still be able to operate within the limits of existing environmental impact studies.
The TFI was initiated after the Chief of Staff of the Air Force directed increased production of F-15C pilots. To achieve this goal the Air Force recognized the need for additional aircraft and manpower at the 173rd FW, the sole F-15C training base for the USAF.
Kingsley is an ideal training facility due to excellent flying weather, including an average 300 days of sun per year and extensive military operating areas located in the eastern part of the state. The ORANG is currently examining plans to possibly expand that airspace; however, in the interim they will continue utilize only current approved airspaces to train.
The TFI represents a significant economic impact for Klamath Falls and the greater basin, said Baenen. The addition of 84 active duty families is estimated to bring over $7 million annually in direct salary, as well as certain indirect job creations. Additionally, the TFI will result in numerous multi-million dollar construction projects awarded to local businesses.
The additional experienced work force will be a great benefit to the 173rd FW, Baenen noted. "In order to meet the nation's need for increased pilot production, additional resources and personnel are an absolute necessity. This TFI will create operational efficiencies, saving money and resources, and, above all, increasing Air Force combat capabilities," said Baenen. "Additionally, a TFI significantly helps ensure longevity of Kingsley Field."
Baenen noted another advantage for the active duty. Currently there are no active duty continental United States based F-15 units, with the exception of the Weapons School and test bases. Because of this, active duty F-15 maintainers and pilots may spend most of their careers on extended overseas tours; Kingsley Field will afford active duty personnel an opportunity to be stationed here in the US.
"Further, the active duty can rapidly gain experience from ANG personnel who have been operating and maintaining this aircraft for many years," said Baenen.
Baenen did note one negative effect of this growth. "Due to this no-notice increase in the operations tempo of our civil engineering unit; volunteer projects such as the Mazama High School turf project had to be delayed a year because of engineering manpower constraints," he said. "Although the TFI has brought over $12 million in short notice construction projects throughout the summer and into next year which benefit local businesses, it came at a cost to our ability to provide volunteer support to the local community."