Leader Blues

Monday, May 07, 2007

TOP STORY >>Schatz named commander

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base will have a change of command May 16, when Brig. Gen. Kip Self hands the reins over to Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr., a former base squadron commander.

Self is leaving central Arkansas to take command May 23 of the Air Force Expeditionary Center, Air Mobility Command at McGuire AFB, N. J., a role he said he was meant to have and one that will once again offer him a new experience.

“It was a good move for the Air Force. I’m the right guy for the job,” Self said, crediting the experience he’s gained from past assignments and deployments.

He’s been special operations mission commander in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, director of mobility forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and commander of Expeditionary Air Forces in southwest Asia during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He has also served as a special assistant to the 21st Air Force commander for the Global Mobility Task Force at McGuire AFB and deputy director of operations at Headquarters AMC at Scott AFB, Ill.

“McGuire develops the expeditionary culture and makes it more successful to the mission, which makes my new command exciting. I’ve been doing that kind of thing before it was cool,” Self said.

One who looks forward to new challenges, Self said he has done things he has never done before at each of his previous assignments.

“It’s exciting to start something new,” Self said, who never flew a C-130 before coming to LRAFB. Serving for the past 29 years, Self said he and his wife Sue agreed he would stay in the military “as long as it’s fun and we’re contributing.”
“I’m fortunate to not be in a job I hate,” Self said. “It’s been a terrific ride and I’m not ready to get off yet.”
He said he was especially not ready to get down from his ride as commander of LRAFB when he learned he would be leaving before his two-year assignment was over.

“At first I was disappointed because I’m not finished here,” the one-star general said, adding his goals while at Little Rock were to prepare the base for the future.

“It was in great shape when I got here and it’s just continued to solidify the great things going on. My goal was to think five to 10 years down the road and would LRAFB be prepared for 2010,” Self said.

During his tenure, LRAFB completed several construction projects, thanks in part to congressional leaders such as Sen. Mark Pryor and Rep. Vic Snyder, who have made sure LRAFB received funds for base improvements. Self said the recent focus was on projects that would ensure the mission is well executed.

“The number one thing is the 50-year-old airfield and making sure it is able to handle the load in five years,” Self said.
“The commissary and BX will receive improvements in their quality-of-life features. Construction of a new BX will begin in 2008; it will be 2014 before members see a new commissary, but the current one will be renovated to improve services and the selection of products will be increased,” he said, adding $150,000 a year will be spent to replace equipment in the gym due to frequent use.

There are 14 ongoing construction projects at the base – a new child development center, a new football field with lights, a new dining facility, renovations to the medical center and new base housing to name a few.

“Seventeen houses in the new base housing are occupied; another 83 will be by the end of the calendar year,” Self said. “We’ve had $4 million in medical group updates – it’s a first-class facility and it’s only getting better.”

Also in the works is combining the Deer Run Golf Course with J.R. Rockers and Consolidated Club and turning it into a new facility called Hangar 1080, creating more of a country club feel, which Self said will “make the building more appealing and save the taxpayers money.”

“We’ve done creative things to maximize the money our congressional leaders have gotten for us,” he said. “We have made LRAFB a center of excellence, and with that comes the money to continue doing so. We’ve been very successful in the forefront (of construction projects) because of our congressional leaders,” Self added.

Base-wide improvements bring about improvements in service members’ quality of life, which Self believes keeps people on base.

“If we can keep the quality of life at the forefront, then people will stay. If we have happy spouses, the members will be happy and will be able to continue the mission,” he said.

Although he hates to leave before his time is up, Self said what he will miss most about his time in central Arkansas is not being the face of LRAFB when he steps down as commander.

“The last year and a half I’ve met fantastic people and I’ll miss that. I was able to get out and meet people of the surrounding communities and people of influence and tell them about what the Air Force is about, and it’s been fun,” Self said.

But regardless of the location of a military assignment, he said it’s the people who make a difference. “They give you a sense of worth and there are none better than those in the Air Force.”

Schatz commanded the 50th Airlift Squadron at LRAFB when it won the 1998 General Smith Trophy as the best airlift squadron in Air Mobility Command.

He most recently served as the deputy director of Operations and Plans with the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

He has also been the executive officer to the commander of U.S. Transportation Command. Other past commands for Schatz, a command pilot, include the 62nd Airlift Wing at McCord AFB, Wash., and the 437th Airlift Wing vice commander at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.