–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Pete Christianson
“Service Above Self” is the Rotary motto. “Service Before Self” is the motto of the Air National Guard. In noting the similarity, Colonel Jeffrey J. Wiegand, commander of the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, emphasized the role of his organization within the community.
The unit is composed of over 1,100 men and women, including 445 full-time employees .The rest are “citizen airmen” who live and work within the community 28 days a month, and train for two days. The total payroll is $58.2-million.
The 115th Wing has 35 pilots averaging about 2,000 hours of total flying time each and adding about 150 training hours per pilot annually. Maintaining flying hours is a major measure of a unit’s size and strength. Colonel Wiegand noted that his unit, as a joint state-federal entity, is less susceptible to “sequestration” which calls for the full-time Air Force to cut costs ten percent annually.
Colonel Wiegand said he strives to assure that the unit is a valuable resource to the greater Madison area. In addition to being called for overseas missions, the ANG can provide domestic assistance such as mobile medical facilities, search and rescue, drug surveillance, and bomb disposal.
The 115th Fighter Wing is a tenant of the Dane County Regional Airport, paying part of its “rent” by providing fire and rescue services for the entire airport. His pilots also work closely with the airport to minimize noise complaints.
Colonel Wiegand sounded as much like a business leader as a military commander when he talked about his desire to maintain strong relationships within the community and provide a good place to work so highly skilled personnel can be retained after their minimum six-year reserve duty is finished. That retention rate currently stands at an admirable 60 percent.