Leader Blues

Monday, July 31, 2006

TOP STORY>>Excellence gives base free pass

Leader staff writer

The men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base are so good at what they do, the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has decided to skip next month’s scheduled Operational Readiness Inspection. Instead, AETC will inspect the base in two years to coincide with the 463rd Airlift Group’s inspection. “I’ve never been in a unit that got a ‘pass’ on an ORI, particularly a wing of this size and responsibility. It’s not given lightly or without careful consideration of the risks by higher headquarters,” said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, the 314th Airlift Wing commander.

The commander says since receiving an “excellent” rating during the 2004 inspection, LRAFB has been “the gem in AETC’s crown” garnering major command and Air Force recognition at the unit and individual levels. “We have creatively managed the fleet ensuring combat ready crews continue to graduate. As recently as June we achieved a 100 percent on-time graduation rate for the first time in years,” Self said.

“Did I mention that we were the international hub for Hurricane Katrina Relief and performed essential logistical support for 29 countries and processed 1,963 tons of relief supplies during this period? Nothing seems to detract from our readiness,” Self said. Col. Don Wilhite, 314th Airlift Wing Inspector General, pointed out to AETC leadership that the 314th also won the “Best C-130 Wing” and “Best Air Drop Wing” at the 2005 International Rodeo competition. Other accomplishments include: the 314th Maintenance Group garnering the 2005 Daedalian Award for the best maintenance group in AETC and the 314th Civil Engineer Squadron being named the best civil engineering squadron in the Air Force leaving the leadership with nothing to critique or criticize.  

Up until this year, AETC has been doing a base ORI every two years. The 314th Airlift Wing proposed inspections in conjunction with 463rd Airlift Group’s ORI, which is on a three-year cycle. The push for rescheduling the inspection began several months ago, but was reinforced during AETC Commander Gen. William R. Looney III’s tour of LRAFB in June. 
“During Gen. Looney’s stay with us, we had the opportunity to share some ideas that made ‘smart operating’ sense,” Self said. “We were able to demonstrate how Little Rock supports both Air Mobility Command and AETC and is inspected repeatedly by both commands. For example, the 314th Mission Support Group and 314th Medical Group are accountable in both inspections. 

“By combining these intensive events into a single inspection we save money, manpower and, in the end, reduce the wear and tear on our facilities and people,” Self said.  The general said AETC is also impressed by how far the wing has performed in the face of grounded aircraft and manpower reductions.  “I didn’t add the multitude of individual achievements and award winners,” Self said. ”There are plenty more, but the (AETC) inspector general didn’t have any more ink. They just said, ‘Great, see you in 2008." “The confidence AETC has placed in this wing is a tremendous reflection on the professionalism of the men and women who comprise the 314th Airlift Wing,” Wilhite said.

Self said ORI’s are a necessary tool to ensure a unit’s capability to do the mission and its compliance with policies and instructions. The only way for commanders to assess their readiness is to inspect them. Self told LRAFB airmen the canceling of the ORI was recognition for excellence from the flight line to the main gate but it’s no time to slack off. “Now let’s get ready for the air show,” Self said. LRAFB’s 51st annual air show is scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 4 and 5. Last year’s air show drew 150,000 spectators to the base.

This year the Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet aerial demonstration team is the featured performance for the show, tentatively scheduled to fly at 2:45 p.m. both days. The biggest member of the Navy Blue Angels team is a Lockheed Martin C-130T Hercules, known as Fat Albert Airlines. The plane has jet-assisted take-off (JATO) capability with eight solid fuel rocket bottles, four on each side, attached near the rear paratrooper doors. Fired simultaneously, JATO bottles allow the transport aircraft to take off within 1,500 ft., climb at a 45-degree angle, and propel it to an altitude of 1,000 ft. in approximately 15 seconds.

Fat Albert joined the Blue Angels team in 1970 and flies more than 140,000 miles each season. It carries more than 40 maintenance and support personnel, their gear and enough spare parts and communication equipment to complete a successful air show. Other military aircraft performances include the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-16 Viper and the Canadian Forces CF-18. The Air Force Wings of Blue parachute demonstration team will feature 12 parachutists jumping from a C-130 cargo aircraft in four separate maneuvers at altitudes ranging from 4,500 to 11,000 feet above the ground.
Paratroopers of the 82nd Air-borne at Fort Bragg, N. C. will partner with the C-130s of LRAFB to drop more than 250 soldiers, demonstrating what the plane was built to do, delivering beans, bullets and bodies to the battlefield.