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MOU Agreement Has Navy Reservists Anchored to the 172d Airlift Wing

January 12, 2012 -- Although U.S. Air Force and Navy personnel may fly or swim to the beat of a different drummer, members of the Mississippi Air National Guard's 172d Airlift Wing and the State's U.S. Naval Reserve unit are now working together and finding out how much they have in common.

With the goal of benefitting from various aspects of joint training, the Flowood, Mississippi based 172d Airlift Wing has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Naval Reserve Navy Operational Support Center from Meridian to host Navy Reservists for training at their air base. The three-year agreement marks the second time these two organizations have partnered through an MOU.

In what was described as a great pioneering and tremendous learning experience before, the Naval Reserve unit trained with the unit at Thompson Field for several years in the mid-1990s. The initiative was initially spurned by the closure of the Navy Reserves training center that was located only a few miles from the 172d AW's location.

"Aviation is what it is and so is surface transportation and logistics," said Naval Reserve Commander, Capt. Eduardo V. Martinez. "It all comes to a common sense denominator. It's about people and saving lives and saving dollars. Mississippi is light years ahead of other states because we've already proven it can be done."

The mutual benefits are also expressed by 172d Air Lift Wing commander, Brig. Gen. William J. Crisler Jr. who has received positive feedback from his staff members who have had Navy personnel augment their forces during a drill weekend.

"The commander of our medical clinic told me to please let them come back," quipped Crisler who says he sees great value in the MOU agreement. "We've been doing this for a long time. We think this a great training opportunity and it's an opportunity to further the joint concept."

Along with creating more familiarity between the two services, combining the two forces eight months per year provides cost-saving measures. Many of the Navy Reserve personnel selected to train at the 172d Airlift Wing live within easy commuting distance of Thompson Field. Therefore, they avoid having to make the 90-mile drive to the Naval Air Station in Meridian and the expense of per diem and lodging.

As the signing of the MOU approached, Navy Reservists had already begun augmenting Air National Guardsmen at Thompson Field. 25 Navy personnel were at the air base the weekend that the partnership was signed and plans are in place to increase that number. Besides the benefits associated with attending drills close to home, Navy Reservists say they have enjoyed the hospitality and the tremendous training environment found at the 172d.

"It's a rewarding experience. We're getting hands-on training and finding out how many of their job tasks are equivalent to ours," said Navy Reservist, Petty Officer First Class Carl Randall. "We've had guys working with the Air Guardsmen in what I call their survival shop on flotation devices, in the medical clinic and more. These people have welcomed us and have helped us to get settled in and we appreciate that."

With the economy dictating present and future cost-saving measures being implemented throughout our military, there is a belief that this Mississippi based joint-training initiative will be recognized and modeled.

"This will probably be the leading edge of technology and leadership," said Navy Reservist commander, Capt. Martinez. We had an inquiry from the North Carolina Guard in 1996 under the first MOU. They saw an article that had been written about us and they wanted to go ahead and mimic the same program. It was very successful in the past and we know how to take it to the future."