Friday, January 20, 2017

Air Force general shares AMC’s needs with Solano leaders

By Ian Thompson From page A1 | January 20, 2017
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 humanitarian missions.

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 military service.”

Another challenge has been the shrinkage of Air Mobility Command despite what Everhart described as unrelenting demands.

“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 the C-5M.

“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 base.

“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.

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