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ANG Top Leaders Host 2023 Wing Leader Conference

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Sarah M. McClanahan
  • Air National Guard

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, director, Air National Guard, and Chief Master Sgt Maurice L Williams, command chief, Air National Guard, hosted ANG senior leaders and commanders from around the nation for the Wing Leader Conference in Newport Beach, Calif., April 26-27, 2023.

WLC, formerly called the ANG Senior Leader Conference, is an annual event bringing together leaders assigned to each of the 90 wings located among the United States’ 50 states and 3 territories and the District of Columbia to collaborate ideas and provide input on critical matters affecting the future of the ANG.

“The 2022 National Defense Strategy lays out how the Department of Defense will contribute to protecting our nation’s people and defending our democratic values,” said Loh. “Ensuring each and every one of our Guard Airmen is ready today and stronger tomorrow is the first step towards putting the NDS’ priorities into practice.”

This year’s conference, themed “Guard Family—Operationalizing the National Defense Strategy,” emphasized that in order to maintain ready forces capable of meeting today’s pacing challenges, ANG leaders must invest in the Airmen who drive the mission.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that it is our people who comprise every element of our organization,” said U.S. Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, during his virtual key address. “We cannot succeed without them. We cannot succeed without you. Thank you for everything you do as part of our National Guard family.”

The conference allowed senior leaders to evaluate readiness through the lens of the National Defense Strategy and how to better support and serve the 108,000 Airmen who make up the ANG family.

“The theme is ‘Guard Family—Operationalizing the National Defense Strategy,’” said Williams. “When you look at family, family is defined as [people] who have a common interest. Our common interest is wearing this uniform … As Airmen, we understand we are warfighters. We defend the nation. That's the purpose of wearing this uniform.”

While conference hot topics included the National Defense Strategy, strengthening and fostering partnerships, recruiting, retention and recapitalization challenges, or navigating the new Air Force Generation model and numerous mission conversions, conversations boiled down to one thing—maintaining mission-ready forces.

“As a National Guard, you're always ready,” said Loh. “Ready as individuals, ready as units, ready as a family. We will never take the focus off of readiness.”

The mitigation of readiness challenges, such as recruiting and retention shortfalls or the limitations of legacy missions and equipment, was also discussed.

“Concurrent and proportional recapitalization of our Air National Guard is an absolute must,” stressed Loh. “We are concurrently recapitalized. We are not proportionately recapitalized. Operationalizing the NDS begins with a strong, healthy recapitalization plan that ensures our warfighters are ready to meet the pacing challenges of a modern, contested battlespace.”

In addition to the ANG’s senior leaders from across the nation, this year’s event invited their spouses to provide feedback on the well-being and issues ANG families face.

“I just want to thank all the military spouses who have taken their time away from either work, children, taking care of parents, for coming here and making a difference to serve all of our Air Guard military families,” said Mrs. Dianne Loh. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you guys contribute and all you do for us.”

Military spouses play a key role in maintaining force readiness because they understand the most how to take care of their service members, added Loh. Their invaluable input is essential in ensuring the ANG remains ready today and stronger tomorrow.

“The power of the 54 is like no other,” said Loh. “Let's keep it alive and strong … We continue to be the world's strongest Air Force because we have the world's strongest Air National Guard.”