Leader Blues

Monday, June 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Group poised for growth

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Col. Jeffrey Hoffer returned to Little Rock Air Force Base April 19 to take command of the 463rd Airlift Group, and since that day he has been impressed with its readiness and opportunites for growth, including a new squadron. “I look at the future of the base and I see it from both the Air Education and Training Command and Air Mobility Command. No matter which command you are in, I know it impacts the mission greatly,” Hoffer said during an interview for the Drop Zone newspaper on the base.

“From getting the students trained and giving them to AMC, providing the back shops supporting our airplanes and actually going with us on our deployments, it’s nonstop,” he said.

Crews and maintainers from the 314th Airlift Wing deploy overseas with members of the 463rd AG routinely, as well as crew members of the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th AW, located at LRAFB.

“The interface is phenomenal! Each one of us have certain core capabilities and we interact completely, so we have to work together for whatever is best for the C-130 community and the Air Force at large,” the past 53rd Airlift Squadron commander said.

“I am really amazed at the way people work together here and it continues to impress me,” he added.

Hoffer also knows that the biggest challenge facing LRAFB is the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) and standing up a new wing on base in the future.

“Obviously, we are going to double in size in both aircraft and personnel – it’s a huge swing in the base’s mission and enhances our capabilities,” the command navigator said.

Because of BRAC, more people and aircraft will be coming to the 463rd, including the 53rd, which will go from a training squadron to an operations squadron; LRAFB’s newly activated 41st AS, the first active-duty C-130J squadron, which came here from Pope AFB, N.C., and the 30th AS at Cheyenne, Wyo., Little Rock’s associate squadron.

“We are going to integrate the 53rd sometime around the first of the year. It’s how to bring all those pieces online and get them spun up, then integrate them and execute our mission that will be a major challenge,” Hoffer said. The stand up of the 53rd AS under the 463rd AG is planned for this winter with its first deployment in the spring. “There’s not a lot of spinup time, so we’ve got to be prepared as best as we can,” he said while talking to Tech. Sgt. Arlo Taylor, 314th AW Public Affairs.

According to Hoffer, the 463rd AG will eventually turn into a wing and split into an operations group and maintenance group with a new wing commander and headquarters staff over them, which Hoffer said “will give us more capability.”
Another challenge Hoffer said in the Drop Zone interview is dealing with the Program Budget Decision 720 cuts, which reduces military, civilian and contract dollars to pay for force modernization, and “how we are going to keep getting smarter and work more efficiently, reducing the processes that waste time.”

“That is a big concern, especially to make our maintenance more efficient,” he said. “We are going to grow, but we aren’t necessarily going to double our maintenance manpower, so we are going to have to get smarter in how we do things.”
Hoffer’s biggest goal for the group is also one of his challenges – standing up the group as a wing as effectively as possible so as to not lose any capability for AMC.

“As Pope draws down and we get a shift in manpower, there is going to be a period when people are moving from point A to point B and accepting airplanes; my goal is to keep the support the C-130 community gives in total to combatant commanders as high as possible,” Hoffer said, adding, “I know it is going to be the biggest challenge for the short term. We want to make it as seamless as possible.”

During these changes and every day, Hoffer will provide the direction and mentor his troops down a path to see what needs to be achieved, letting the men and women achieve the goal.

“I like to give people the resources they need to get the job done,” he said of his leadership style and philosophy. “Nobody can control everything to the ‘nth’ degree.”

“I like to give people the site picture of what we want to accomplish and give them the assets they need.

“Then have them bring it together through their ingenuity,” he continued. “I like to tap into our people’s ingenuity and thought processes. I know they are the ones who will make the big difference on us getting better,” Hoffer said.