Paramilitary: Pilots Gone Wild



January 29, 2011: It was recently revealed that the commander of a U.S. Air Force National Guard fighter wing in Alabama was found guilty of using F-16 flights for personal use (to visit family in Texas) and manipulating his work schedule to get unauthorized overtime pay. This is an old problem with the Air Guard, especially in transport squadrons, where training flights usually consist of flying empty aircraft from one base to another. There's always the temptation to move stuff around for the squadron (which is legal), members of the squadron (not exactly legal, but often tolerated) and non-members of the squadron (definitely not legal, but for family it is sometimes tolerated.) Since the air force does not directly control these squadrons unless they are mobilized for federal service, dealing with unauthorized use of aircraft is often complicated by state politics. Since the air force was created in 1947 (by separating the Army Air Force from the Army), dealing with these temptations has gotten a lot of official attention. When these transgressions are uncovered, as many (but not all) of them are, it means lots of bad publicity and lower morale among the reservists  (the vast majority) who have been playing it straight.
The Air National Guard supplies personnel to staff dozens of combat and support (mostly transport) squadrons. Air force and navy pilots who leave active duty often join the Air Guard so they can continue flying military aircraft. In order to make these squadrons capable of operating at the same level as active duty units, it's necessary to have the reserve pilots spend nearly as much time in the air (over 100 hours a year) as those on active duty. The reserve pilots love this, as many are professional pilots (usually for airlines). But it's hard work, because Air Guard personnel have to spend 2-3 times as many days on active duty each year as their army counterparts (who do about 40 days of active duty a year). Like the army reservists (who are often also active duty veterans), the air force reserve pilots have, on average, more flying hours than their active duty counterparts. As a result, the reserve fighter squadrons are usually a match for active duty units when it comes to flying skills, and often superior.




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