Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>Schatz tells of goals at air base

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base commander Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne Schatz last week addressed the Air Force’s three current priorities: win the global war on terror, develop and take care of the airmen and recapitalize and modernize the force.

“Fifty-three percent of active duty are online supporting Combatant Command requirements every day,” Schatz said during the September LRAFB Community Council luncheon. “Little Rock has more than 515 airmen deployed, about average for every day of the year.”

More than 31,000 airmen are deployed worldwide with 60,000 Airmen stationed forward, he said. “Our operational mission is vital to saving lives in Iraq. Little Rock’s mission has direct (impact on the global war on terror) – C-130s capabilities have kept more than 6,900 convoys off Iraqi roads,” the commander said.

In one month, C-130s and C-17s reduce ground convoy requirements by airlifting the equivalent of cargo carried by 3,500 trucks allowing the ground forces to re-task their troops for other duty, Schatz added.

The Air Force also flies about 430 combat missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility every day.

“On average, 108 C-130 missions are flown each day over Iraq and Afghanistan. On any given day in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, C-130s move 163 short tons of supplies and equipment and 1,800 people throughout the combat zone,” Schatz said.

In developing and taking care of the airmen, Schatz described them as amazing, innovative, everywhere and in demand.
“Our airmen are flawlessly performing their mission no matter the constraint. We need their (innovative) ideas to recapitalize our Air Force,” he said. “They are deployed around the world at all times to fight the long, global war on terrorism and keep our great nations safe; other services recognize that our training and people are second to none,” Schatz said.

According to Schatz, who will be promoted to brigadier general Sept. 28, Air Force weapons systems must be recapitalized to remain viable in the fight, as well as modernizing the aircraft fleet. Currently, the average age of Air Force aircraft is 24 years – “older than the airmen we’re recruiting,” Schatz said.

“We have some of the oldest and most tired C-130s in the Air Force,” he said, adding, “We’re retiring older E models and bringing online the new J.”

Col. Mark Vlahos, 314th Airlift Wing vice commander, told The Leader that although the C-130E models, which are more than 40 years old, continue to prove their reliability and effectiveness, they still need to be replaced.

“The C-130J is a technologically advanced platform that climbs faster and higher, flies farther at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance,” Vlahos said. “The J-model ensures Team Little Rock’s ability to support the nation’s combat airlift capability with world-class training and combat ready aircrews long into the future,” he said.

According to Air Mobility Command headquarters at Scott AFB, Ill., base realignment and closure-directed realignments and current C-130J acquisitions, 52 C-130s (22 C-130Es, 14 C-130H3s and 16 C-130Js) will be based at Little Rock AFB by the end of fiscal year 2009.

Air Force efforts to recapitalize the intra-theater airlift fleet and retire C-130E models are ongoing, AMC officials said.
In addition, the 314th Airlift Wing will have 24 C-130s for training, bring the total to 76.

LRAFB focus areas

Schatz is also focused on ensuring airmen and their families have the tools needed to successfully deploy, accomplish the mission and handle the stresses that come with a high operations tempo.

Schatz told the base community council that he plans to focus on improving the education opportunities for the children and Airmen of LRAFB with projects like the joint-education center, an Arnold Drive Elementary School replacement, Pulaski County Special School District unitary status and an independent Jacksonville school district.

“We continue to work with the Pulaski County Special School District to secure funding to replace Arnold Elementary School with new construction,” he said. “We have a site selected across the street from North Pulaski High School. I mentioned this to Cong. Vic Snyder (D-Little Rock) when he visited and also to the Lt. Gov. Bill Halter when he visited.”

Schatz has also met with PCSSD Superintendent James Sharpe earlier in the summer about the quality of schools in the area.
“The ultimate goal is the best education possible for the children of our airmen – they deserve no less,” Schatz said. “I told him I supported a Jacksonville independent school district as the best way to achieve the goal of the best resourced schools for the children of Little Rock Air Force Base.”

He will also continue to advocate for infrastructure recapitalization and improvement and get the privatized housing project back on track. “Little Rock is an enduring base that needs to replace older facilities. We need to develop a long-range plan to do this smartly, to include a runway, dormitories, community center and some flight line buildings,” Schatz said.

The base broke ground two weeks ago for two new buildings, a new headquarters for the 463rd Airlift Wing and a corrosion control facility, as part of Little Rock’s expansion under BRAC. The Senate, on Sept. 6, approved $9.8 million for runway repairs on base.

“We currently have over $60 million in new BRAC military construction on the books, which is great,” he said. According to Schatz, housing privatization at Little Rock AFB is a key goal.

“We will likely see a new developer brought in to replace American Eagle; all local subcontractors will be made whole as a result of the selling, restructuring of the project,” he said. Schatz hopes to begin construction again around June 2008.
“The goal is to have the best available home for our airmen and families.”