Monday, August 26, 2013

Commission visits Tinker, gains insights from Airmen

by Maj. Jon Quinlan
507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

8/26/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force visited with National Guard, Air Force Reserve and active-duty members here Aug. 20 to get their perspectives on how best to shape the future force.

The commission was established by Congress earlier this year to study the Air Force's three components to determine if and how the structure should be modified to best fill current and future mission requirements with available resources. This independent analysis and the commission's recommendations are due to the president and Congress by Feb. 1, 2014.

Reservists from the 507th Air Refueling Wing along with their Air Reserve Component association partners, Oklahoma Air National Guard's 137th ARW, came together to provide the commissioners a unique look at the KC-135 association through briefings, tours and discussions.

Reservists in the 513th Air Control Group provided the commissioners a look at the E-3 Sentry and detailed how their classic association with the active-duty 552nd Air Control Wing has garnered success, especially in support of the combatant commanders in deployed theaters.

"We're here to listen and learn," said the Honorable Dennis M. McCarthy, the commission's chair, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general and a previous assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon. "You've got some great people here, and that's no surprise."

Along with McCarthy, three other commissioners visited Tinker AFB. They are former Oklahoma Adjutant General, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry (Bud) M. Wyatt III, retired Air Force Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr., and Dr. Janine A. Davidson.

During the visit, the commissioners ate breakfast with junior grade Airmen. Wyatt later recalled a theme that came out of the breakfast with one guardsman telling him, "I want to be trained to get into the fight, to do the mission," said Wyatt. "They want to be part of the operational force."

The executive director of the commission, Dr. James Blackwell highlighted that the visit to Tinker and all visits they make are important steps in gathering information so the commission can make the best recommendations.

"Once again we have heard from the Airmen about the real impact of transforming the Air Force. What we heard today is confirming what we have heard at other visits," Blackwell said. "We have seen different perspectives here and you can really tell the Airmen speak with a lot of conviction."

Tinker AFB has all members of the total force team, guard, reserve, active duty and a robust civilian workforce. This made Tinker a prime location for the commission to see total force integration in action and to see details about the unit associations.

"One thing that was unique about our visit to Tinker is that here your tanker units (507th and 137th ARWs) have a real unique association," Blackwell said. "It's the first time the commission has seen an ARC association, and it provided us with a lot of valuable information."

The commission held an off-base hearing in Midwest City, Okla. next to the base. They first heard from squadron commanders and superintendents from the active, guard and reserve units on Tinker. Next they heard from state and local community leaders as well as members of the public.

U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin each addressed the panel highlighting the importance of the commission's visit and their recommendations in the defense of the nation.

"The commissioners heard something else here for the first time. The military has been accustomed, in a decade of wartime decision making, to focusing on effectiveness," executive director Blackwell said. "Now for the foreseeable future, the Air Force has to focus on a steady state that will emphasize peace time cost effectiveness. That message seemed to resonate with commissioners."

The NCSAF will continue to visit with more units with future visits scheduled for Selfridge ANG Base, Michigan and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(Barry Willey, NCSAF public affairs contributed to this story)

No comments: