The 116th Air Control Wing will soon be divided into two units, a unit spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday. The split will separate active duty airmen in the unit from Air National Guard members assigned to the 116th, essentially reversing a 2002 move that combined the two components under one commander.
After the split, active duty airmen in the 116th will be consolidated under an active duty commander, with Air National Guard airmen under a Guard commander.
The change will happen by “the end of the summer,” said Judy Smith, the 116th spokeswoman, though the exact date has not been determined.
The two units will receive new names, Smith said. The new names have not been determined.
In October 2002, the unit became the first “blended wing” with active duty and Guard members under the same chain of command. “We were like a test subject in 2002,” Smith said.
The Air Force apparently decided to abandon the blended wing concept recently because of administrative difficulties, with different procedures for promotions and disciplinary actions for active duty and Guard members, for example.
“Really, this organizational change is to put us in compliance with an Air Force directive,” said Col. Bill Welsh, the commander of the 116th Operations Group, a subordinate unit to the 116th Air Control Wing.
The 116th Air Control Wing controls the Air Force’s fleet of Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, or J-STARS. The aircraft has seen heavy use over the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, flying more than 1,000 missions in both theaters.
The unit’s 17 J-STARS aircraft will remain under the domain of the Air National Guard, though the active duty pilots will continue to fly with their Guard counterparts.
“Operationally, we will still be integrated,” Welsh said.
The 116th has about 2,600 service members in its ranks, including 127 soldiers in the active duty Army.
According to the unit’s most recent figures, the 116th has 1,124 Air National Guard members — 530 who only work one weekend a month — and 1,400 personnel in the active duty Air Force.
There will be no additional personnel added to Robins when the 116th splits.
To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.