Former wing commander sees Guard issues from Pentagon’s altitude

A promotion ceremony is held for 163d Attack Wing Commander, Col. Dana Hessheimer, as he promotes to Brig. Gen. August 5, 2017, at March Air Reserve Base. The ceremony was officiated by Brig. Gen. Clay Garrison, California Air National Guard Commander. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

By Master Sgt. (CA) Gregory Solman
163d Attack Wing Public Affairs

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif.—When Brig. Gen. Dana Hessheimer left command of the 163d Attack Wing here to become the Director of the Joint Staff at the California Military Department, little did he realize that he’d soon be called up to the Pentagon, where he’s proving the concept of Total Force Integration.

At first, the Air Force “dual-hatted” Hessheimer, asking him to maintain his leadership position in Sacramento at the same time he’d been put on staff as a special assistant to Headquarters Air Force/A3O (Operations) in Arlington, Va. However, in February, Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, nominated Hessheimer through the General Officer Management Office of the National Guard Bureau to work full time for the Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations.

As the Acting Director of Current Operations, at least through the summer, Hessheimer’s role has not typically been filled by an Air National Guardsman. “It’s rare,” Hessheimer says. “It’s usually an active duty [Air Force] officer.”

Hessheimer’s effortless assimilation into “big” Air Force Operations has been the sort of seamless integration long sought. “I couldn’t tell you if it was a problem before, having been on the west coast, but I see more of it now—that the Guard and the Reserve are getting integrated at all levels of Air Staff,” says Hessheimer. That trend provides a healthy “education level for the active-duty leadership. And there can be a Guard or Reserve voice when decisions are being made. You can put a Guard ‘spin’ on [issues], for instance, on Guard limitations.”

For example, Federal Aviation Administration has mandated at all aircraft be Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast (ADS–B)-equipped—allowing shared situational awareness—by next year. The Operations unit implementing the change reports Hessheimer’s directorate in the organizational chart, “and when they were doing coordination, I made sure that all Guard aircraft, not just active duty, are included in that.”

Also, with the new U.S. Space Command standing up as a unified combatant command, and the HAF/A3/OS (Space) also in his portfolio, Hessheimer has been “making sure we have a voice in that, especially since the Guard has equities in that already. We want to make sure they are included in the Total Force.” He added that with the exception of A10 (“there is no nuclear weapons nexus in the Guard”), Air National Guard should be, by design, “sprinkled throughout every directorate.”

As if to symbolize the complete acceptance of an Air National Guard general officer serving on the Air Staff, Hessheimer says he and a Chief Master Sergeant from the Air Force Reserve were on stage “handing out awards to active duty people” during the Air Force’s annual ceremony last month, “and nobody would know the difference.”