Brig. Gen. Frank D. Rezac is the assistant adjutant general and commander of the Illinois Air National Guard.
Rezac was born November 22, 1944, in Effingham, Ill. He attended Spalding Institute in Peoria and graduated in 1962. He graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1967.
His military education includes Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, National Security Management and Air War College. Rezac joined the Illinois Air National Guard in May 1967 and was commissioned in February 1968.
He graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training in August 1969 and assigned to the 169th Tactical Air Support Squadron, Greater Peoria Airport, as a forward air controller. In July 1972, he was assigned to the 182nd Tactical Air Support Group as the chief of intelligence.
In February 1974, he became chief of standardization and evaluation and assigned to the 182nd Direct Air Support Center Squadron as the assistant director in July 1978. Rezac became commander of the 182nd Direct Air Support Center Squadron in November 1979.
In 1980 he was named the commander of the 169th Tactical Air Support Squadron, the deputy commander of the 182nd Tactical Fighter Group in October 1983, and in June 1989 became commander of the 182nd Tactical Fighter Group.
Rezac joined Headquarters, Illinois Air National Guard in February 1994 as the support personnel management officer and became deputy commander in August 1994, assuming his current position in 1995.
Rezac is a command pilot with more than 4,900 hours. He serves on the ANG long range planning committee and on the subcommittee studying ANG response to weapons of mass destruction.
He’s active in the Peoria Downtown Rotary and works with various veterans’ groups.
Rezac is married to the former Paula Beck. The Rezacs have five children.
Who or what influenced your decision to go into military service?
During the time I was in college, military service was an expected thing. After graduation I intended to join the U.S. Army and purchase a commission. While I was home on Christmas break during my senior year, my father – who was the chief of the Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control tower in Peoria – told me the guard was looking for pilot training candidates. Growing up, I knew a couple of the guard pilots, and knew that they enjoyed it, so I decided to check it out.
Many who finished the pilot training program were hired as commercial pilots by the major air carriers, which seemed to be a career with a very bright future. As it turned out, the airlines had some pretty rocky times in the late 1960s and 1970s, and the pool of pilots was bigger than the commercial airlines could absorb.
After I returned from pilot training, I worked for a few years at Saint Francis as a unit manager and became a full-time employee of the Air National Guard in 1972. I was bitten partially by the flying bug, but the real reasons I stayed with a military career were the challenges and the great people with whom I worked and flew.
What particular sacrifices are necessary for a career in military service?
People who join the services today have to be willing to accept discipline and hard work. That hasn’t changed a bit over the years. Service members have to be willing to relocate, follow orders, lead – and be willing to take a bullet for their country if necessary.
Their paychecks will never make them rich and they’ll miss a lot of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and family events due to operational commitments. Someone is always inspecting you, giving you immunizations for something exotic, and asking you to start your day early and finish late. But those same sacrifices bring tremendous rewards and a real feeling of accomplishment.
When a mission is executed well and you see the teamwork, dedication and selflessness, you can help but look past the sacrifices and be extremely thankful you’ve been given the health, talent, and opportunity to be a part of it.
The sacrifices for members of the Air National Guard are the same as those for people on active-duty – with the exception of frequent relocation. Conversely, ANG members work more weekends, and they have to work closely with their civilian employers to minimize the effects of being absent for military duty.
What is the history of the Illinois Air National Guard in the Peoria area?
May 1, 1944, the Army Air Corps disbanded the 304th Fighter Squadron. May 24, 1946, the unit was reinstated and redesignated as the 169th Fighter Squadron and assigned to the National Guard. The Peoria squadron received its federal recognition June 21, 1947.
The unit was initially equipped with eight P-51 fighters, four T-6 trainers and one B-26 tow target aircraft. Since then, the unit has flown F-51H and F-51D Mustangs, T-28 trainers, F-84F Thunderstreak jet fighter bombers, Cessna U-3As, 0-2As, )A-37B Dragonflys, F-16 A/B Fighting Falcons; and now, of course, flies the C-130E Hercules.
Today, the unit is comprised of several squadrons and is federally recognized as the 182nd Airlift Wing. What started out as a unit of six individuals has grown to a unit of more than 1,100 people.
To show the community the economic impact of the IL ANG, years ago personnel were paid with marked dollars. Tell about that study and the result.
When the unit was formed in 1947, the airport was owned by the Peoria Park District and the operating budget for the airport was very small. There was no airport authority as we know it today. The hierarchy of airport leadership at that time did not really have a good appreciation of the Air National Guard or what a unit could do for the community economically. After all, this new entity – the United States Air Force – was just beginning and people were unaware of what it was all about.
One of the founders of the unit was Art Szold, a man well known throughout the Peoria area and a person who has been very active in helping make Peoria better. Art was the commander and he and the others worked hard to increase membership to have the unit federally recognized.
In 1950 Art felt strongly that he needed to do something to make the community aware of the guard and what the economic impact was on the community. One of the members was a banker and suggested one was to improve the community’s awareness of the guard’s impact was to pay unit members with silver dollars – and circulate them throughout the community.
Then people would see silver dollars being passed around and ask where they came from and why. The trick, however, was to mark these silver dollars so that people knew these were new dollars coming into the community from the federal government to meet the payroll for the guard unit.
Art contacted Fleming and Potter and they donated a supply of small gold strips that could be temporarily affixed to the coins. They marked about 55.000 silver dollars with the gold strip. They actually brought a truck to the base with a teller cage mounted on the trailer. They dispersed the payroll that month in silver dollars from the back of the truck.
Art’s only direction to the ANG members was to circulate the money – not necessarily spend it, but circulate it in the community the next weekend.
The following week there were silver dollars floating everywhere around town. The questions began and the community interest was great.
Just months after Art did this, it became evident there was a mine subsidence problem at the airport. Coal mines had been dug along the bluff area of Bartonville, and mining operations took place under some areas of the airport. There actually was some subsidence where concrete was settling and caving in on airport property.
This caused a great deal of concern to the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C. and the unit was told that they would have to make arrangements somehow to get the airport directorship to fix that problem or the unit would have to be relocated to Rockford or Moline.
Because of this silver dollar experiment – and because members of the community saw the impact from the circulation of those dollars – the Association of Commerce supported and, in fact, funded a referendum which provided for the formation of the Greater Peoria Airport Authority. That entity still exists today, of course, and has done an outstanding job in improving and making sure Peoria has a viable airport.
As a result of the formation of the airport authority, the mine subsidence issue was taken care of and life goes on for the Air National Guard in Peoria. If that same silver dollar payout could be made now, we’d find ourselves dispersing, after taxes, neatly 1.2 million silver dollars per month.
We owe much to the founders of the organization, who had the foresight to win over and make the community realize how important this Air National Guard unit could be to the future of Peoria.
How is the IL ANG currently organized?
The Illinois Air National Guard has both federal and state missions. Our federal mission is to train for operations in support of national security objectives. Our state mission is to protect life and property and to preserve peace, order, and public safety.
In the event of federal mobilization, the commander-in-chief is the president. During peacetime operations, however, the commander-in-chief is the governor.
Each state’s National Guard, composed of air and army, is commanded by an adjutant general appointed by the governor. Serving directly beneath the adjutant general are two assistant adjutants general. One commands the army and the other commands the air guard.
The Illinois Air National Guard is composed of just under 3,500 members and is made up of three major flying units. These “wings” are made up of several squadrons, each with a particular type of mission.
Each wing is capable of going to war as a self-sufficient organization. It can also be quickly molded together with active or other reserve component organizations for increased capability.
What’s the relationship with the United States Air Force?
The Air National Guard is a reserve component of the United States Air Force. It’s not, however, the same as the Air Force Reserve.
Both the active-duty Air Force and the Air Force Reserves are strictly federal entities and have only federal missions. The ANG, on the other hand, has state and federal missions and, unless federally activated, falls under the control of the governor.
Our budget is primarily funded by federal resources, and the Air Force is responsible for ensuring the air guard has adequate resources from within the Air Force budget.
The working relationship between the Air Force and the air guard is outstanding. As guardspersons we take federal and state oaths.
Our federal oath holds us responsible for serving as reserves of the Air Force. As such, we train to Air Force standards, we fly by Air Force rules, we wear the Air Force uniform and to most people the relationships appears seamless.
The Air Force has come to totally trust air guard capabilities and has integrated us fully into their operations. We, in turn, have trained hard to be valuable assets to the Air Force and our partnership is a shining example of cooperation. The closeness of the Air Force and the air guard results in a very cost-effective military success story for America.
With nearly half of the nation’s total military force serving as national guard members, how quickly can the U.S. have their reserves read for action?
The response of the reserve forces, and especially of the ANG, is very rapid. I say is rather than can be because we are so involved in military operations on a daily basis that “ready for action” is just a way of life. Our aircrews are mission ready now and can respond as quickly as we call upon them.
During the first hours of Desert Shield operations, the tankers from Chicago were airborne and off-loading fuel to aircraft heading to southwest Asia. Even before the unit was federally activated, the volunteer crews were flying and accomplishing these necessary missions. As the Gulf scenario continued, the unit was mobilized during Desert Storm and flew hundreds of missions providing fuel to the combat aircraft going in and out of Iraq.
Likewise, the response from the Peoria and Springfield units was very rapid. The units can deploy for action as fast as we can move them to the theater of operations and they’ll be ready to fight when they arrive.
On any given day, where in the world would we find the IL ANG?
Today, we have people serving in Bosnia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Germany, Korea, and at various locations in the U.S. – though they’re not always in big numbers. In general, our people are on the road now much more frequently than at any time in our history.
Most are involved in flying, maintenance to support that flying, communications, or information management activities. Our civil engineers and medical people are also very active in providing humanitarian support to developing countries.
It seems as though the U.S. military is facing mane of the same challenges as private business and enterprise – downsizing. Is this a correct assumption?
Downsizing certainly has occurred in the military. Since 1985 the size of the Department of Defense has reduced dramatically.
The Air Force has decreased from 601,515 people to 371,577, a reduction of nearly 40 percent. The ANG has only decreased by 2 percent. Certainly the breakup of the former Soviet Union is a primary driver in the drawdown scenario, but continued budget reductions have kept that ball rolling.
In the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the National Defense Panel processes, the Air Force has opted to take the reductions primarily from the active force and leave the reserve components pretty much alone. As an example, the Air Force in the QDR agreed to downsize active-duty strength by 26,900, while the loss to the air guard and the Air Force Reserve combined is only 700 members,
The Air Force embraces what’s known as the Revolution in Military Affairs. Which means, basically they downsize in people as much as possible and use the dollar savings to improve the technological military advantage.
Part of the Air Force downsizing plan also calls for reduced infrastructure but, as you know, closing bases is a very political issue.
How is the guard responding to those pressures?
Because our downsizing nationally has been small – and because we experienced only a few losses in Illinois – downsizing hasn’t been a serious issue for the air guard. For us, the real focus has been the increase in operation and personnel tempos that occurs as we respond to the increased need for our services following active force downsizing.
More and more, our units are involved in missions outside the continental United States. This puts additional stain on families and employers. We’ve tried to improve our family support and employer support programs and encourage our members to let us know how the negative effects can be minimized.
What career opportunities does the IL ANG offer?
We offer just about any career you can think of, and some of which you might never dream.
Our units are similar to small communities made up of people with many different specialties. We have career fields that run the gamut – including information management, medicine, logistics, maintenance and, of course, flying. We provide training for all of these careers.
The basics of military life are taught at Lackland AFB, Texas, for the enlisted members and at our Academy of Military Science in Knoxville, Tennessee, for the officer corps. We provide management training and other forms of professional military education. All of our training is designed to create well-rounded individuals, prepared for accepting increased responsibility and leadership.
Some careers are war specific and are extremely important for maintaining military mission readiness. Obviously, in civilian industry there’s not a great demand for fighter pilots, but their training and flying ability makes them valuable resources for commercial aviation.
How is recruitment and retention handled today?
We’ve been very successful as far as recruitment is concerned. Our units have maintained high levels of manning for many years. We offer many benefits including 100 percent college tuition to state funded college or universities, educational assistance through the Montgomery GI Bill and student loan repayment programs. These benefits, as well as the ability to serve your country and community on a part time basis, attract many people.
When recruiting, we conduct initial interviews with prospective applicants to determine whether the air guard is what they really want, and to determine if they are eligible for military service. We put them through a series of mental and physical tests to determine their abilities. We try to match their interests with the needs of the units.
We have a saying in the air guard, “Retention begins with the first step of recruitment.” The guard’s retention statistics are the best in all the armed forces. On average, almost 92 percent of our people reenlist. Often people join for one reason and find other reasons to stay. The one comment I’ve heard over and over from those who retired or moved from Illinois is how much they miss the people with whom they’ve worked.
We have the unique opportunity in the guard because out people come from our own communities. After receiving specialized training they return to home units for duty and to continue that training. We constantly strive to improve the quality of life for our people and our communities. We find that community involvement really helps in our member retention.
Without a base exchange or commissary, do guard members receive credits or discounts at area merchants?
There are only a few area merchants who give guard and reserve members’ discounts. During Desert Storm, however, many businesses came forward with discounts, donations to family programs, and other financial incentives.
Many of our people take advantage of base exchanges and commissaries when they’re in the vicinity of active-duty facilities, but because our membership is made up primarily of traditional guard members, it’s not feasible to support base exchange and commissary operations locally.
What special personal and employment pressures are unique to guard and reserve members?
The greatest personal pressures are family related and generally arise when an important family event occurs at the same time the member’s attendance is required for military duty. We try to reschedule training for individuals as much as possible and we try to schedule around holidays and other major events. Hopefully the pay, scholarships, and other benefits offset the inconveniences we might cause for families.
The greatest employment pressures come when our training activities or response to contingencies require our members to take time off from their civilian employment.
Again, we try to work with employees to minimize the effects as much as possible. Overall, while we occasionally impact an employer, the employer generally realizes the training, discipline and loyalty our members bring to the workforce are worth the inconvenience we occasionally cause. Additionally, a strong reserve component force meant America saves tax dollars that would otherwise be spent on a large standing military. For this reason, many companies feel very good about doing their part to support reservists.
How has the U.S. military’s mission changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and how has the IL ANG been affected?
The role of our military has always been to provide a strong national defense. Part of that is fighting and winning America’s wars. For almost 50 years during the Cold War, we were postured for conflict with the former Soviet Union, which required a certain type of military structure. Our standing military was larger so our infrastructure needed to be larger and more forward based, with our forces centered around combating communism and its spread.
As the dissolution of the Soviet empire occurred, U.S. national security policy began to focus more on maintaining and strengthening regional stability in various areas of the world. Since our military forces play a principal role in our ability to influence international affairs, it naturally follows that the military be called upon to serve in areas where instability occurs. Having said that, the mission still remains the same – to provide a strong national defense and, if necessary, to fight and win America’s wars.
What has changed, however, is our force structure. We are much smaller than ten years ago. We have fewer military installations and have significantly reduced our overseas forward basing. This forces us to deploy expeditionary-type forces more and has greatly increased our operations and personnel activities. Additionally, because the active forces have been significantly reduced, the guard is asked more and more to help out. That trend will most likely continue at least for the near term, especially if military budgets continue to be reduced.
Did the IL ANG have a role in the Gulf War?
Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, the tanker crews from the 126th Air Refueling Wing were out of the chute at the very beginning of the Desert Shield action. Volunteer crews provided en route air refueling from the United States to the Persian Gulf area during the entire buildup phase.
The unit was partially mobilized and about 600 people were called back to active-duty. About 200 backfilled at Air Force bases around the states while some 400 were sent to the United Arab Emirates. The tanker crews flew missions around the clock and off-loaded fuel to fighters flying attack missions into Iraq. During the 109 days of their involvement in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, they off-loaded 27.1 million pounds of fuel to receiver aircraft.
The Peoria unit had 174 people activated and nearly all stayed stateside. Our medical folks took over the hospital at MacDill AFB, Florida, and our service folks were sent to Luke AFB, Arizona. Our air support operations personnel were sent to support Army brigades preparing for deployment to Kuwait and many people were sent individually to bases to backfill for deployed active-duty members. The 183rd Fighter Wing had about 30 people called up and all stayed stateside to backfill deployed active personnel
Our units are still involved in the Persian Gulf. The 183rd Fighter Wing performs two 30-day rotations in Kuwait flying F-16s over Iraq in support of the U.N. enforced no fly zone. Additionally, the Chicago and Peoria units rotate people through the area to provide airlift and tanker capabilities.
What are the current and future threats to world and U.S. security?
That’s a difficult question to answer in a short period of time because the threats, both current and future, are diverse and much more than just military in nature. Certainly, threats to our security as a world come from the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems.
As the world’s technology continues to expand – at geometric or even logarithmic rates – the information systems which are the lifeblood of modern social, economic and political infrastructures are potential targets in any region of the world. While the world may appear to be more peaceful, it still can be a very dangerous place and requires us to do everything we can to attain global stability.
More specifically, threats to U.S. security are the primary concerns of our military forces. When one thinks of national security one first think of national survival. The primary threat here is the physical destruction or damage via weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. Other threats to national survival come from those things which could undermine our economy, our institutions or our values.
The report of the National Defense Panel, which built on the recently completed Quadrennial Defense Review, points out it’s unlikely our future adversaries will confront us with conventional forces, but because of our overwhelming conventional superiority, will attempt to attack us or out interests in more unconventional ways.
For example, terrorist acts may be aimed at us more at home, our information systems may be manipulated or crippled, space-based weapons will become more prevalent, and weapons of mass destruction may be proliferated and become more difficult to detect and defend against.
Drugs will continue to be a problem, as will crime. But the greatest threat to our security in the future would be an unwillingness to make the changes necessary to meet the challenges that will occur in the next century.
The IL ANG has a significant presence in Illinois. What is the current economic impact to our community?
The IL ANG is composed of 3,490 personnel. The unit in Peoria has more than 1,100 assigned. Of that number almost 300 are full-time employees with the remainder traditional guard members. These are individuals whose primary occupations are in the civilian sector.
Financially the unit has significant impact on the community with a current annual budget of $25.4 million. The dollars that make up our budget are new dollars coming into the community. We don’t compete with anyone for business but we bring a healthy amount of income to the local community which, in turn, generates other business and additional impact on the economy.
The good news is that the unit will increase to more than 1,200 people by July 1999. The new base in Peoria is nearly complete and has already resulted in more than $68 million dollars of military construction since 1984. Currently, the unit is equipped with eight C-130E aircraft and will receive updated versions in future years.
What is your role and responsibility?
I wear two hats. As commander of the IL ANG I have the normal responsibilities that go along with the chain of command in military organizations. Making sure the units are informed, supported, and resources appropriately are my primary concerns. I’m also involved a great deal in planning the future of the IL ANG and do a lot of liaison work with the national guard bureau in Washington D.C.
As the assistant adjutant general for air, I act as the primary advisor to the adjutant general on all air guard matters. The adjutant general reports directly to the governor on all military matters in the state of Illinois.
What issues require most of your time and attention?
Personnel and budgetary issues require the bulk of my time. Long-range and strategic planning are also key areas that require constant research, analysis, and update. Additionally, I spend quite a bit of time representing the IL ANG at conferences and special events.
Is there a misperception of the role of IL ANG members by the community at large?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a misperception in the community as much as I would say that the community has very little perception about us. It amazes me, for example, that most people in Peoria have never seen our new facilities.
We have fourteen buildings that sit on a 348 acre site located on the southwest quadrant of the airport. It is the newest guard base in the country and yet most people don’t know it’s there. Frequently, when I tell people about my occupation, they ask if there is a unit at Peoria. This tells me we are a too well-kept secret and we need to improve our telling of the air guard story.
In general, the business community seems to be more aware of our presence than the community at large. I think this is because of the significance of our construction program the last fifteen years, the size of our payroll, and the amount of business the base does with local firms.
How is a call-up of guardsmen initiated?
If it’s a federal call-up, the president exercises his authority by ordering the call-up and the Department of Defense executes that order by notifying the national guard bureau in Washington. The presidential order is passed down through the chain of command and as it comes to the state, the governor is informed. The units are then notified and unit commanders begin to contact individual members with a time to report. Members are responsible for always being prepared to respond.
During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, members were usually given 24 to 48 hours notice to report but some individuals, because of specialty, were asked to report in as few as twelve. There usually is about one day of mobilization activity at the unit and then folks are deployed to their assigned locations.
During the flood of 1993, some people were asked to report in less than eight hours and were deployed to the Mississippi River immediately. In the case of state call-up, the governor orders the action after consulting with the adjutant general and the units are notified as quickly as possible.
What’s the legal responsibility (length of time, same position, etc.) of a business to hold a guardsman’s company position?
The job rights for non-career military service members are specified in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. This law is commonly referred to as USERRA. It clarifies and strengthens the previous Veterans Reemployment Rights Act that had been law since 1940. In general, USERRA protects the civilian job rights and benefits for veterans and members of reserve components.
The new law expands to five years the cumulative length of time an individual may be absent for military duty and still retain reemployment rights – the old law provided four years of active-duty, plus an additional year is the additional time was for the convenience of the government.
Similar to the old law, there are important exceptions to the five year limit. These include initial enlistments lasting more than five years, periodic training duty, and involuntary active-duty extensions and recalls, especially during a time of national emergency.
USERRA states returning service members be reemployed in the job they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority.
USERRA also puts several requirements on the service member so the employer is treated fairly as well. The USERRA law is lengthy but is important to both the employer and the employee. We have a program called Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve that works with employers on USERRA issues, and our personnel folks are always happy to answer questions from employers.
Without the outstanding support our people receive from the companies for which they work, we simply could not exist as an institution.
With the expansion of the Greater Peoria Airport and its surrounding communities, is encroachment a factor here?
I don’t believe so. We have a long term lease with the airport authority and they have great vision about airport development and the needs of the tenants.
We work hard to be good neighbors and are confident we can rely on the continued support we receive.
Could the base be placed on the next closure list?
We’ve nearly completed the new base construction and have one of the newest facilities in the country. We are bringing two more squadrons to Peoria in 1999 and I’m currently in the process of trying to acquire a space mission for Illinois. I see a long-term future.
What message would you like to sent to potential guardsmen?
Check us out. We offer some great opportunities and challenges. I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years and have yet to do the same thing two days in a row. It’s exciting, rewarding, and offers military experiences in a civilian setting.
Best of al is the feeling of satisfaction you get from serving your country. People feel a tremendous sense of pride when they stand and salute the flag during the playing of the national anthem. Check that feeling out – it really is awesome.
What message would you like to send to the Peoria community regarding our support of the IL ANG?
To the community, I would say thanks for more than 50 years of support you’ve already given the guard. I would humbly ask you to continue that support in the next century.
To the companies, businesses and organizations that employ members of our units, a special thanks. Your support of the guard in Peoria has been exceptional. It has not only made our units here stronger, but has helped the entire nation. IBI