FAIRFIELD — The Air Force faces
challenging times to retain and keep talented airmen, expand a shrunken service
to meet unrelenting world challenges and stay ahead of foreign militaries who
are challenging American military dominance.
That was what Gen. Carlton D.
Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander, told the 34th annual meeting of
the Solano Economic Development Corporation on Thursday.
Everhart began his talk with
the latest example of Air Mobility Command’s global reach – the KC-135 air
tanker support that made a Wednesday night strike on two Islamic
State group camps in Libya possible.
Air Mobility Command tankers
refueled the B-2 bombers that flew a 34-hour round trip from Whitman Air Force
Base, Missouri, to hammer the terrorist camps.
Everhart used it as an example
of Air Mobility Command’s capability to support American commitments
around the world to “take the fight to foreign soil to make sure every
war is an away game.”
He went on to point out other
examples that ranged from Travis’ recent role in running an airfield crucial to
the retaking of Mosul in Iraq and supporting NATO exercises to
Everhart said he was proud of
relationship the community surrounding Travis had with the base.
“One of the most important aspects
of our partnership is working together to do the right thing for our airmen,
our communities and our national defense,” Everhart said.
Everhart said his own foremost
challenge is tackling the problem of retaining and recruiting talented
airmen in a growing economy.
He said Air Mobility Command
faces a growing shortage of pilots, maintainers, cyber systems operators and
aerial medical evacuation personnel. He stressed that more needs to be done to
get young talent to consider the military on graduation.
“Help me reach out to these young
people,” Everhart asked the room of local community leaders. “I could use that
talent. We need your help to highlight the opportunities available through
Another challenge has been the
shrinkage of Air Mobility Command despite what Everhart described as
“Five years ago, AMC flew about
1,200 sorties every day,” Everhart said. “Today, we fly about half that number,
not because of demand, but because we no longer have that capacity.”
In that time, 10 squadrons were shut
down, the service’s C-5 fleet has been cut from 112 aircraft to 52 and the
refueling fleet has dropped from 600 aircraft to 455.
This was mainly because of the
federal Budget Control Act and sequestration.
“You all felt the impact here when
1,500 civilian airmen were furloughed for 22 days in 2013, and flying hours
were cut by 18 percent,” Everhart said.
Ongoing budget problems have
eroded the service’s ability to plan effectively and Everhart warned that such
budget challenges could eventually threaten mobility programs such
as the KC-46 program.
Everhart said the Air Force is
the smallest it’s been in its history.
“We are not only smaller, but we’ve
also struggled to modernize and outpace out adversaries when it comes to
capabilities,” Everhart said.
Moving to another challenge, he said
the stunning success of aerial dominance in Desert Storm in 1991 prompted other
major powers to take note and spend the next two decades working out
countermeasures using advancing technology.
“Today, middle powers possess the
resources, technology and know-how to challenge control of the air, and our
military has struggled to keep pace,” Everhart said.
He said it’s one of the reasons
that the Air Force has invested in advanced airframes such as the F-22, the
F-35 and the B-21.
Air Mobility Command is also working
to upgrade and improve its own fleet to make it more flexible, durable and
far-reaching – for example the KC-46, which Travis is now slated to get, and
“However, these airframes do not
possess the capability to operate in high-threat denied environments,” Everhart
said of the C-5M and KC-46. “So we have plenty of work ahead to guarantee rapid
global access to our military.”
Everhart said one had only to
look west to the South China Sea “where we’ve seen a buildup of the kinds of
technology I’m talking about.”
Despite the challenges, Everhart
closed his talk on an optimistic note.
“Make no doubt about it, despite all
challenges, we are the world’s greatest air, space and cyber force,” he said.
The talk before members of the
Solano Economic Development Corporation was just one of Everhart’s stops here.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove,
met Tuesday with Everhart at Travis Air Force Base to talk about the
KC-46A air refueling tanker that’s scheduled to come to the Fairfield
“General Everhart and I had a good
conversation on the next steps to ensure a smooth transition,” Garamendi said
in a press release. “Solano County is lucky to have so many leaders in military
and civilian life focused on Travis’ continued success.”
Travis is slated to get 24
KC-46A aircraft. A routine environmental review will be completed by the summer
of 2018, with the first of the KC-46s scheduled to arrive in 2020.