News: ACC commander visits, stresses continued focus on readiness
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho – Providing ready combat airpower for any contingency in an uncertain budget environment was the main theme during the Air Combat Command leadership visit here Oct. 10 and 11.
Gen. Mike Hostage, ACC commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Parsons, ACC command chief, toured several base facilities and talked to airmen of all ranks. Their budget message was trumpeted loudly: it’s not about doing more with less.
For the Mountain Home airmen who often proclaim themselves ‘Gunfighters,’ the mission is paramount, and will never falter.
“We prepare mission ready gunfighters to provide dominant combat airpower to meet the nations’ call … anytime and anywhere,” said Col. Christopher Short, 366th Fighter Wing commander, adding that the wing prepares airmen to defend both U.S. and Republic of Singapore interests.
Though skeptics may say accomplishing the Air Force mission under budget constraints would prove difficult, Hostage remained optimistic, stating, “We traditionally do our best during crisis.”
Hostage urged group commanders to keep their eye on the ball and stay engaged with what’s really important.
“Don’t get distracted by the budget and fiscal climate, rather stay focused on providing operational combat air power,” said Hostage.
The general, command chief and Kathy Hostage met with groups of Airmen and spouses from several squadrons, and saw local cost-saving efforts firsthand.
One stop on the tour was to the 372nd Training Squadron, where Master Sgts. Clay Christensen and Jeremiah Carley and Staff Sgt. Rodney Arzuaga explained how their organization saves thousands of flying hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
The 372nd TRS uses five retired F-15A Eagles as training dummies to teach hundreds of maintenance students multiple aspects of F-15 aircraft maintenance.
“Using old jets versus (full-mission-capable) jets allows our students to get the same hands-on training they’ll apply to real-world maintenance, while keeping FMC jets on the line and in the skies,” said Arzuaga. “By doing so, we give roughly 2,000 flying hours back to the (operations group) and save a ton of money.”
More flying hours equals better-trained pilots. Whether those pilots are facing an adversary in air-to-air combat or providing close-air support for the combined-joint effort in places like Afghanistan, airpower equates to saving comrades’ lives and defeating the enemy.
Pilots and Air Force officers play a significant role in sustaining dominant air power. However, leadership comes from all levels, and Parsons stressed to a class of future leaders at the Airman Leadership School that their decisions could mean life or death for the Airmen they lead.
"Readiness is about taking care of Airmen," said Parsons. "If you send your Airmen to a major theater of combat and they're not ready to fight, they probably won't make it home. Readiness has to be our top priority."
After a breakfast with Hostage and Parsons, one junior Airman from the 366th Component Maintenance Squadron reflected on how deeply the general and command chief’s messages resonated with him.
Not deterred by a shrinking fiscal budget, Airman 1st Class Jason Stackens, 366th CMS precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, said he’ll now be more focused on doing his part to help.
“General Hostage pointed out that they look at what is exorbitant when making cutbacks and that the mission-essential items will still be readily available,” said Stackens. “As enlisted Airmen I believe that it is essential that we stay focused and know that decisions are being made in our best interest within the limits given.”
Stackens sees a smaller budget has the potential to make his job more strenuous, but vowed to strive to alleviate that by putting more effort toward reducing resources and eliminating waste.
“These are small task that we can do individually to start affecting the Air Force in a way that will benefit us immediately,” said Stackens.
The commander’s message was clear: Gunfighters and Airmen across ACC need to put their money into the things that are most important and take a close look at what isn’t mission essential for future cuts because as Service members, ACC needs to be able to respond anytime the nation calls.