Military News

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Defense Budget Provides Air Force With Needed People, Money, Time

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 — People, money and time are needed to address urgent issues the Air Force faces today, the service’s chief of staff told the Defense Writers’ Group here today.

Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein said that readiness and morale go hand-in-hand.

“I find where readiness is highest, morale is highest,” the general said. “So you walk the line today in Bagram [Afghanistan], you walk the line in Kunsan [South Korea], you walk the line where we have invested the people, parts -- all the things that are required to continue engaging in an active campaign like in Bagram or supporting the pressure campaign in Kunsan, you will find that morale is fairly high.”

But there is a cost to the readiness at bases on the point of the spear and the bases in the United States are paying it, Goldfein said.

Cost of Maintaining Readiness

“When you walk those bases and you see lower levels of readiness, lower levels of manpower, higher levels of operational tempo as they not only prepare for a continual rotational to the Middle East -- because that footprint hasn’t come down -- but also ensure we have continued bomber presence, to ensure we have what’s required to support the pressure campaign and we’re doing that with less people, less parts on the shelves, less flying hours, you will find the morale there is not high,” he said.

Conventional airpower and people paid the bills for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, the general said. They paid for the continual bomber presence. They paid for space assets. And people left the service, but that didn’t mean the number of missions declined. Those who remained had to pick up the slack.

The fiscal year 2018 DoD budget goes a long way toward addressing the problem, Goldfein said. The first thing the service must invest in is its people, the general said.

“It’s more than just those who strap on the aircraft,” he said. “It’s the maintainers, it’s the refuelers, it’s the avionics technicians; it’s all those folks who have their fingerprints on the airplane before it takes off.”

Adding More Airmen

Getting that number right will go a long way to improving readiness and morale, the general said. The Air Force will add 4,700 more airmen this year and 3,300 a year into the future.

The Air Force also must have a healthy number of weapon systems that it can generate, employ and sustain at combat rates, the general said. This means the depots need an infusion of money and people. Parts inventories must be increased.

“It’s the flying hour program and all those things that sustain a healthy weapon system,” he said.

There also needs to be an operational training environment that allows airmen to realistically train for higher-end combat, Goldfein said.

“We’re doing a lot of work now in looking at if China and Russia … are our pacing threats that we have to train against, what exactly does that mean to answer the question, ‘Ready for what?’” the general said.

Training now must reach into space and into the digital realm, he said.

And, the Air Force must have the time required to invest in the training, Goldfein said.

“What’s really going to be helpful in the budget is we are really going to be able to make some advancements that we haven’t in the past,” he said.

Face of Defense: Soldier Breaks Through ‘Glass Ceiling’

By Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Hecht, New Jersey National Guard

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., March 29, 2018 — New Jersey Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kristina Sofchak, a Black Hawk helicopter maintenance test pilot with Detachment 2, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment here, recalled that she loved to talk to her mother about career paths.

“I would say, ‘I want to be a waitress,’ and my mom would say, ‘Why not own the restaurant?’ I would say, ‘I want to be a nurse,’ and my mom would say, ‘Why not be a doctor?’” Sofchak said. “She was constantly challenging me to think about the things I could accomplish as a woman.”

Sofchak noted that her mother even named her in a way that could aid her with job applications.

“My mom purposefully named my sister and I with gender-neutral names, so I could put Kris on a resume, and my sister could put Casey,” Sofchak said. “She wanted us to be judged on our merits, not because we’re women.”


Sofchak was inspired in the 1980s by women such as Lynn Rippelmeyer, who became the first woman to fly the Boeing 747 and in 1984 became the first woman to serve as an airline captain.

“I heard about women making history in aviation while I was in school, and I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to be a pilot,” she said. “He said that girls couldn’t be pilots.”

A chance encounter put her on a path to a career in aviation.

“My mother took us to Great Adventure [theme park], and there was an AH-1 Cobra [helicopter] static display there. I knew I wanted to work with Cobras,” Sofchak said.

She went to her high school guidance counselor and told him she was going to join the Army National Guard.

Helicopter Mechanic Duty

Sofchak enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard as a helicopter mechanic, and soon was running maintenance teams on the hangar floor.

“I was working on a helicopter one day, when a supervisor of mine, a male, told me I hit the glass ceiling. I was confused about what he meant,” she said. “He said that I was going to climb as high as I could go on that ladder; that I could see the rest of the path, but I could never get there. I was angry.”

After twelve years as an enlisted maintenance soldier, Sofchak’s dream of flying was realized when she became a helicopter pilot.

As a young pilot, she found herself going from the lush Pine Barrens of New Jersey to the dangerous skies over Iraq.

Flying Missions Over Iraq

“I was scared at first, but the more missions we did, the better it got,” Sofchak said. “We were doing the air assault mission, taking soldiers right to compounds to pick up high-value targets.”

She is the New Jersey Army National Guard’s first female maintenance test pilot.

“I love what I do and I just want little girls out there to know that this is something they can do, too,” Sofchak said.

And what about that supervisor that told her she hit the glass ceiling?

“I saw my old supervisor after I came back from flight training, and he was really happy for me. He said I didn’t hit the glass ceiling, I busted right through it!”