Pa.'s Attack Wing plays crucial role planning, stand ready for Papal visit

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 111th Attack Wing played a key role at the Pennsylvania National Guard Headquarters in the days leading up to and during the highly-anticipated Papal visit Sept. 26-27, 2015 for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Through development coordination, Guardsmen of the 111th ATKW were staged at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, in response to the needs of their domestic mission. The Attack Wing Guardsmen were critical in the planning process and maintained readiness in the event of emergency situations requiring National Guard intervention during the first Papal visit to Philadelphia in over 35 years.

"My role here is as an air planner to coordinate and integrate with the Army," said Lt. Col. Scott Meier, 111th Air Operations Group deputy group commander, working at FITG as a member of the Joint Task Force. "[The Pa. Army National Guard] have the lead on this and we're coming in to support with any background knowledge that we have and might be able to fill them in.

"If something happens that we have not planned for then we need to truly organize crisis action planning and come up with a strategy to move folks into places while bad things are going on."

Lt. Col. Fred Phelan, 111th AOG member and also part of the JTF, stated that his work as a wing member translated well to his assignment at the state headquarters. He also acknowledges that while some operations and acronyms differ between the Army and Air sides of the National Guard, accomplishing the overall mission trumps any variations.

"We have the one overall common core," said Phelan. "We have that bond that we are all from the state of Pennsylvania, serving at the request of the governor, so the Army and the Air Force here have a seamless transition and a unity of effort."

The Guardsmen of the 111th ATKW all agree that their work and experience at the wing level  helped to fulfill the needs of the state when they were called upon to do so.

"What we've learned [back at home station] is the job process, which is a joint process that allows us to speak a common language with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps who are here now," said Meier "So, as we come to sit down and plan, we're all able to operate off of the same things: common language, common vocabulary, working towards the goal together."

But being called up in support of a domestic operation, such as support of the Papal visit, also requires these Guardsmen to be prepared to work in any facet needed by the state--not just what they do at home station.

Deputy Adjutant General -- Air Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli, said that domestic operations, like the Papal visit, are completely different from the federal mission in that they may require members to fill roles outside of their Air Force Specialty Codes.

"We're all eligible to be put on state active duty," said Carrelli.  "If the governor calls, we're going. And you may be from finance, you may be from public affairs, you may be from logistics, but I may need you to do traffic control...I may need you to do reassurance in our communities. So, you may not always be called to do your AFSC."

While the general maintains that members of the National Guard are always eligible for state activation--requiring them to fill any role necessary--the Papal visit called upon Attack Wing members with tailor-made specialties for what was needed during this operation.

Either way, Carrelli affirms he holds confidence that the Pa. Air National Guard will always answer the federal or state demand with swiftness and expertise.

"I know that our Guardsmen will answer the call and no matter what [they] are asked to do, [they] will be ready and do a great job," said Carrelli. "That's who we are."

As the nationally-observed occasion of celebrating the Pope concluded without incident, the Pa. National Guard packed up and left Philadelphia virtually un-noticed. But members of the 111th ATKW continue to remain vigilant, ready to arise again when needed - for both state and country.