Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TOP STORY >> Despite shortages, battle will be long

Leader staff writer

Maj. Gen. Marc Rogers, 19th Air Force commander at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, told airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base the ongoing global war on terror is stretching military budgets and personnel.

“There is not enough money in the budget to upgrade our fleets and build the capabilities it’s going to take to fight through the long term,” Rogers said about the challenges airmen face as they fight the global war on terror, or the Long War, as he called it. But he vowed to fight the war with all the resources at his command.

“It’s our duty to support the lead dogs on the ground who are face-to-face with the guns (in combat). That’s our Army soldiers and Marines. I love those guys and will do everything in my power to support them,” Rogers said.

Air Force officials are trying to balance the high costs of personnel and organizational inefficiencies to meet national and worldwide defense needs with a plan called Air Force Smart Operations 21. Part of the plan will reduce 40,000 personnel by 2011, about 12 percent of the 340,000 people now serving in the active-duty Air Force.

Most of the reductions were made in support roles, including 270 positions at Little Rock Air Force Base, such as communications, public affairs, chaplains, civil engineering, legal and finance, according to Maj. Joe Atkins, 314th Mission Support Squadron commander.

To date, no aircrew or maintenance positions were identified as part of the cuts.

“These cuts aren’t about faces; this is about spaces. It’s a difficult time, but we need to do this for the force – for the country,” said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing. The personnel cuts will help support the hardware side of the Air Force mission, such as replacing older C-130 cargo aircraft with the newer C-130J models.

“We’re working with headquarters to ensure the mission of training the world’s best aircrews doesn’t stop,” Self said.
Rogers agreed, saying the key to success in the face of the personnel cuts is efficient thinking and organization.

“It’s going to impact us, but we have to do it because our most expensive system is people. We have to upgrade our aircraft and capabilities,” Rogers said.

“Military organizations throughout history have always had one core competency. They had to pay attention to the training piece. It’s part of our job every day,” Rogers said.

“I applaud what you do, and never make any mistake about how important you are on the war on terror. You can’t help but believe that if we don’t get the training piece right and keep the pipeline flowing, none of that operational stuff forward would ever happen. We won’t be able to execute out there. We are producing expert and well-trained human beings who can go out and execute their missions decisively in a professional and excellent manner in the face of a lot of adversity,” Rogers said.

Rogers is responsible for the day-to-day training of approximately 2,000 U.S. and allied Air Force students. The training ranges from entry-level flying training through advanced combat crew training, and ultimately provides fully qualified aircrew personnel for the war-fighting commands. The 19th Air Force is composed of more than 31,000 assigned personnel and 1,800 aircraft in 25 units throughout the country.

Rogers has led combat operations in both Iraq and Bosnia. He has 2,300 flight hours including 184 combat hours.

Tech. Sgt. Arlo Taylor and Capt. David Faggard at Little Rock Air Force Base contributed to this article.