Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

October 12, 2017 at 12:03pm

AF Services launches drive for members

The Air Force Services Activity’s new member drive ends Oct. 31. Those who join by then are eligible to win a $10,000 grand prize. Graphic by Air Force Services Activity

Hot on the heels of its 2017 Air Force Club Member Appreciation Program, the Air Force Services Activity is launching a drive to attract new members.

Like the membership appreciation event, the new-member drive offers a grand prize of $10,000.

"First, we showed appreciation to our members and encouraged them to convert their membership to our new, app-based system," said Jonathan Boyd, AFSVA chief of nonappropriated fund food and beverage operations, of the August appreciation event. "Now, we want to continue to build on our Air Force club tradition and attract new members."

The new system, called the Club Member Portal, offers club members the opportunity to interact with the club, by direct messages about club events, email and text messaging.

"Members can opt in to receive messages with the MemberPlanet app and keep up with events at their installation's club," Boyd said.

Membership is open to active-duty military, Defense Department appropriated fund and NAF civilians, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, military and civilian retirees and military widows/widowers. The membership drive began Sept. 18 -- the Air Force's 70th birthday -- and ends Oct. 31. Those who join during that time are eligible for the grand prize.

Air Force clubs offer members free or discounted entertainment, such as live shows, sports-watching parties such as Football Frenzy, with its weekly prizes and grand prize of two tickets to the Super Bowl and Mixed Martial Arts Fight Nights, which feature visits by fighters at four clubs. Each club also provides food discounts, programming and entertainment tailored to members at that installation.

"Clubs offer members the ability to spend time with people who share similar life experiences as a member of the Air Force family," Boyd said.

Steve Bedford, AFSVA's chief of operations for Food 2.0, has been a club member for 40 years. "It's part of my heritage," he said. "The clubs offer many discounts, including discounts to other force support squadron activities. I also like the great programs they offer," he said.

"Those everyday discounts include $1 or $2 off breakfast or lunch, 10 percent off catering and a food-service equipment and supply lending program," said Tony C. Flowers, manager of the Nellis Club on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Club managers have the option to bring Air Force Central Programs, which include the Frenzy events and the Air Force Club Scholarship program, to their club.

"However, it's up to each club to provide programs to meet specific needs of single airmen and families, and continue the heritage of official and non-official functions," Flowers said. "We at Nellis (AFB) have gone the extra mile to ensure membership counts. We offer monthly programs such as a free haircut, one free lunch, First Friday, Boss-N-Buddy, to name a few. We also offer weekly programs like a free drive-through concession with a Starbucks coffee and breakfast burrito every Friday, and up to 50 percent off of selected lunch items each day of the week. Just last month we gave away a trip for four to Disneyland that included a three-night hotel stay, $500 cash, $100 fuel card and four two-day hopper tickets."

Membership fees on average range from $3 to $25 per month, depending on the member's pay grade and installation.

To find out more about Air Force Clubs, or to join or renew your club membership, go to MyAirForceLife.com/Clubs

October 12, 2017 at 11:58am

Boone named American Red Cross Hometown Hero

Aaron Boone, finance specialist for the Western Air Defense Sector, donates blood platelets Oct. 5 at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of Aaron Boone

Aaron Boone, a finance specialist for the Western Air Defense Sector, was recognized as an American Red Cross Hometown Hero Sept. 28 by the American Red Cross Association Northwest Region for his donation of blood platelets 26 times over a 15-month period.

Each year, the American Red Cross Association holds a luncheon to recognize individuals and organizations from the northwest region that have made a positive impact on the lives of others, whether through a lifesaving action or tireless work to benefit the community.

Boone has donated over two gallons of blood since 1998 while serving full-time in the Washington Air National Guard.  He later started donating blood platelets at the urging of his wife, retired Tech. Sgt. Denise Haigh-Boone who also donates regularly.  Boone has donated over nine gallons of platelets since 2014.

Boone retired from the WAANG in 2016, but he still continues to donate in his federal civilian capacity every two weeks to the Armed Services Blood Bank Center Pacific Northwest on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Boone explained he is able to donate blood platelets up to 24 times a year compared to only six times a year for whole blood donation. According to the American Red Cross, blood platelets only have a shelf life of five days and are especially needed during trauma or major surgery because platelets help form clots to stop heavy bleeding.

It is very important to Boone to be able to provide life-saving blood platelets.  "I donate through the military because I have been a life-long military person and it is important to me to support those people that have put themselves in harm's way in order to protect the rest of us and our livelihood."

Additional information on donating blood or platelets can be found at mamc.amedd.army.mil/blood-bank/default.aspx or sign up to donate at militarydonor.com.

October 5, 2017 at 1:17pm

Everhart talks to airlines

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II participated in smaller group discussions with the RAA Board of Directors during the event, which brought together executives from 15 separate regional airlines. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

The commander of Air Mobility Command spoke with a group of more than 150 airline representatives, Sept. 26, to address pilot qualification and retention issues common to the Air Force and the airline industry.

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, delivered the keynote address at the Regional Airlines Association Annual Convention at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in Florida. In addition, Everhart participated in smaller group discussions with the RAA Board of Directors during the event, which brought together executives from 15 separate regional airlines.

"There is great value in having a two-way, active discussion with industry representatives because getting after the pilot retention problem requires us to understand what the airlines are concerned about, just as we want them to see things from our perspective," Everhart said.

The general received feedback on the airlines' need for increased schedule predictability for pilots serving in the Air Reserve Component while highlighting the broad and continuing nature of Air Force and mobility operations around the world. The group discussed leveraging technology and addressing policy related to building qualified pilots, and further crystallized ways to work together on solutions to the Air Force's pilot retention issues that also consider the industry's need for qualified professional aviators like those with military background.

"One airline received a request to make forty-five of his pilots available for duty -- which created an unmanageable business strain. This is why we are working to better set requirements and schedules working toward a goal of at least sixty days in advance and examining non-flying deployments through the lens of necessity," the general said. "I did emphasize that we will look to improve in this area, but the world always has a vote. The recent string of hurricanes and the earthquake in Mexico may require reaching out short-notice for support. It is important this is also understood."

Developing a larger pool of qualified pilots was discussed as a foundational necessity to building a better future scenario that can sustain the airline industry and military's need for professional aviators.

The airline executives and the AMC commander talked about ways to enhance educational quality and opportunities, particularly in schools near military installations. They collectively identified the need to partner in ways to reach students and inspire a passion for aviation and aviation maintenance as viable and exciting career choices.

Everhart spoke to the group about the developing concept of establishing a National Training Academy with military and civilian tracks for attendees. Such an institution would enhance the supply chain of pilots, addressing the shallow pool that currently contributes to competing for those resources between the Air Force and industry.

"Right now, we're starting to move past the concept stage and more toward making the National Training Academy a reality," Everhart said. "We're examining and refining three primary courses of action from which to decide. If approved at the Department of the Air Force level, I'd envision an initial operating capability in late 2019 with full implementation around the end of 2021."

The aviation industry representatives expressed a primary area of concern in that currently, there is a government-mandated 1,500-hour flight requirement for commercial airline pilots that cannot account for simulator time as flight hours. The sizable expense associated with accumulating the 1,500 in-cockpit flight hours makes the military a recruiting hotbed for the airlines. Because Air Force pilot training includes full motion simulators to better challenge and prepare pilots for a wide variety of situations and developments too risky to replicate in the air, the Air Force's practices and use of this technology could serve as a beacon to demonstrate effectiveness.

Everhart said the ongoing dialogue represented by participating in this conference is essential to addressing the ongoing challenges the Mobility Air Forces face in attracting, developing and retaining qualified pilots while working with industry on solutions that will reduce the need to compete over the scarce resource of professional aviators that currently exists.

"Just as we have asked our airmen for input on what we can do better for them and their families to convince them to stay with us in the service, we continue to talk with industry representatives to fully understand what keeps them up at night," Everhart said. "There is no one easy solution to addressing our pilot shortage. Getting this right is absolutely critical and means looking at all angles of the issue. What can we collectively do to retain our pilots and maintainers, expand the pool of eligibles and reduce the need to compete for talent with the airline industry? "It's a shared problem," he said. "And it will require a shared solution."

October 5, 2017 at 11:55am

McChord supports hurricane relief

Soldiers meet a convoy of cargo and equipment upon arrival at McChord Field’s joint inspection area. Photos courtesy 62nd Airlift Wing

In support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron airmen from McChord Field loaded more than 350,000 pounds of equipment aboard C-17 Globemaster IIIs, Oct. 2. The equipment will support continuing relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

This joint effort to move thousands of pounds of cargo to provide humanitarian relief employed airmen and aircraft from 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and 21st Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California; as well as soldiers and cargo from JBLM units, including the 62nd Medical Brigade.

October 5, 2017 at 11:49am

Milestone changes coming to TRICARE

Beginning in January 2018, there will be changes to the TRICARE benefit. Photo credit: TRICARE

TRICARE beneficiaries will soon have increased access to healthcare through key changes that are set to take place in January 2018. With the benefit set to undergo some of the biggest improvements in more than two decades, beneficiaries will be able to take command of their healthcare through expanded choices. These improvements include wider access to network providers, updated enrollment to reduce disruptions in care, and simplified co-payments.

The Defense Health Agency recently met a key requirement for implementing these changes, with the publication of a formal document -- called an Interim Final Rule -- that establishes the legal "rules of the road" for putting in place changes mandated by Congress. The Interim Final Rule is now available for public review and comment.

"We are working hard to use the opportunity Congress gave us to continue building a health plan that does even better for our beneficiaries, the warfighter, and the taxpayers who support us," said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of Defense Health Agency.

The goal of this change is to keep beneficiaries healthy by providing better healthcare options. This includes allowing doctors to make the decisions on whether beneficiaries need a referral or specialty care instead of the regional contractors. Urgent care will be available without a referral through either the military hospital or clinic or at a civilian urgent care center in areas the military health facility is not an option.

TRICARE is changing. Here is what beneficiaries need to know: Some of the key changes that will become effective Jan. 1, 2018, will affect region consolidation, TRICARE plans, enrollment and costs. There are currently three TRICARE regions in the United States, including TRICARE North, South and West. Starting in 2018, these regions will become TRICARE East and West. They will be administered by Humana Military and Health Net Federal Services. This change will allow for better coordination between the military hospitals and clinics and the civilian healthcare providers in each region.

Several changes will also occur in coverage plans at the start of the new year. TRICARE Select will replace TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra. In the U.S., TRICARE Select will be a self-managed, preferred provider network option. Beneficiaries will not be required to have a primary care manager and can visit any TRICARE-authorized provider for covered services without a referral. Overseas, TRICARE Overseas Select will provide access to both network and non-network TRICARE authorized providers for medically necessary covered services. TRICARE Select, both stateside and overseas, includes additional preventive care services previously only offered to TRICARE Prime beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can review all available plans at tricare.mil/changes under the plan finder.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, all current beneficiaries will also be automatically transitioned into their respective plan as long as they are eligible. TRICARE Prime enrollees will remain in this plan. TRICARE Standard and Extra beneficiaries will be converted to TRICARE Select. Beneficiaries will be able to choose to enroll in or change coverage plans throughout the year-long grace period in 2018.

Beginning in fall 2018, enrollment will move to a calendar year open enrollment season like federal employee plans. During this time, active enrollment will be required to change plans for the following year. Those who are retiring will have to choose their plan and enroll to retain coverage. The open enrollment season begins on the Monday of the second full week in November and runs through the Monday of the second full week in December of each calendar year starting in 2018. All beneficiaries should make sure their information is current in DEERS now so they are converted to the correct plan in January.

Beneficiaries will shift to a copayment structure from the current cost-share structure also starting Jan. 1, 2018. With fixed costs for specific services, beneficiaries will be able to better predict their healthcare costs. Updated out-of-pocket costs for 2018 will be available at tricare.mil/changes.

While the upcoming changes are significant, the goal of the Military Health System is to continuously improve healthcare for all its beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can prepare for the upcoming changes by visiting the TRICARE Changes page, where they can sign up for email alerts, complete a beneficiary checklist, and see available plans and updated costs for 2018.

"This marks a major milestone in our effort," said Bono. "It highlights the opportunity for our beneficiaries to take command of their health plan, and our responsibility to ensure that these historic changes to TRICARE are a success for beneficiaries and the Department."

September 28, 2017 at 11:10am

Air Force's humanitarian assignments

No single reason exists why a humanitarian reassignment or deferment might be approved. The Air Force’s Personnel Center views each request with compassion and empathy, giving it careful consideration. Photo credit: Kat Bailey

Today's American airmen do the impossible every day. They pursue their mission with excellence and integrity to become leaders and warriors, providing help to a world in need. However, even airmen need help at times, especially if an acute problem occurs with a family member.

The Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program, run by the Air Force Personnel Center, assists active-duty airmen in resolving severe, short-term problems involving a family member while airmen continue to meet the needs of the Air Force.

"The spirit and intent of the program is to place the airman at the closest location to where the problem exists," said Kimberly Schuler, Humanitarian Assignment Policy chief. "Typically, a reassignment or deferment is a one-time action to resolve a critical problem with a family member within a reasonable period of time, normally twelve months."

The definition of "family member" for the Humanitarian Program is limited to spouse; child; parents, to include in-laws, and stepparents; person in loco parentis; or other persons actually residing in the household who are dependent on the airman for more than half of their financial support.

"We often get asked about siblings," Schuler said. "That's always a tough one because siblings aren't within the scope of the definition of ‘family member.' However, if the sibling is terminally ill, we'll look at the request as an exception to policy."

In a case that requires a long-term solution, an airman would have to look at other options, she said.

"The Humanitarian Program is a temporary solution to a short-term problem and the Air Force is unable to consider a permanent or prolonged deferment."

The comptroller general has ruled that the Air Force cannot make moves at government expense based solely on humanitarian reasons. The reassignment or deferment must be to meet Air Force mission needs in addition to helping the airman. Therefore, a valid vacancy must exist at the gaining base and the airman must meet retainability requirements for a permanent change of station.

Schuler's team in AFPC's Military Assignment Programs Branch, along with a team of six case managers in the Assignment Support Section and 11 Total Force Service Center Assignment technicians, processes approximately 1,000 requests annually to expedite assistance to airmen in need.

Humanitarian reassignment or deferment is not limited to a single reason. Circumstances can include the terminal illness of a family member, the death of an airman's spouse or child, the sexual assault of the airman's spouse or child, or issues involving a serious financial impact such as the loss of property through fire or natural disaster.

"The reason doesn't have to fit into a box," Schuler said.

In each situation, the AFPC Medical Review Board or the AFPC Administrative Law Office reviews requests for verification of clinical data submitted with an application or for the verification of legal documentation. Careful consideration goes into the adjudication of each request, as these airmen are normally in a crisis and deserve the most compassionate eyes possible on their situation.

"It's not just personnelists making the decision," Schuler said. "It's a whole system of checks and balances. The entire team looks at the whole-person concept. We look at each situation as if we were in that airman's shoes and view the circumstances with empathy and kindness."

Missing documentation can delay the process, which is normally about two to four weeks. Schuler said the more supporting documentation the airman can provide about every aspect of the situation, the better, as it paints a clearer picture of the scope of the problem. Burden of proof is on the member to prove that their situation is more than what an average airman is going through.

"Everyone has a tipping point, so we weigh everything -- everything -- happening in that airman's life to determine the best course of action," she said.

Currently, 2,916 airmen are directly benefiting from humanitarian assignments at bases across the Air Force. However, if the airman's application does not meet the threshold for an approval under the Humanitarian Program, the case managers take the extra step to research if the airman may be eligible for another alternative assignment option.

"Perhaps the airman can apply for a Base of Preference or a follow-on assignment," Schuler said. "Or maybe they don't meet the requirements right now, but if something changes, they can reapply. We try to manage their expectations and provide resources instead of just simply saying, ‘Denied.'"

Schuler's team is also working on improvements to the application process to make it more intuitive. Two efficiencies they would like to implement include a "delivery" status bar, visible to customers in the virtual Military Personnel Flight, and a defined set of statuses with detailed explanations of the application process.

To help airmen navigate those resources, Schuler's team hosts recurring webcasts on the Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program. The next webinar for all airmen is scheduled for Sept. 27 at 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Central Daylight Time.

Additionally, airmen can chat with a personnel specialist live on myPers about the humanitarian program between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT. To access the chat feature, click on the Humanitarian/EFMP link under "Assignment Programs" on the active-duty myPers Assignment landing page, hover the mouse cursor for 30 seconds and a chat window will appear.

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, visit myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following the instructions on the Air Force's Personnel Center website.

September 21, 2017 at 1:41pm

AROWS change improves operational requirements

Beginning Oct. 1, a new data field will be added to the Air Reserve Orders Writing System that will be used primarily to track military personnel appropriation and other orders for operational requirements.

This new field will be called Air Reserve Component Operational Requirements Tracker, or ARCORT. The only orders required to have an ARCORT number will be the following Title 10 activations: full or partial mobilizations, presidential recalls, and voluntary (contingency and non-contingency) activations.

For these orders, the ARCORT number should be easy to find as it will be in the Manpower MPA Man-Day Management System, known as M4S, and generated on the Air Force Form 49, Application for MPA Man-Day Tour, when the orders are finalized. If in an email notification the ARCORT number is not included, air reserve component members can ask their orders-generating office for the form, and it will have it.

The number is part of the change to a mission or operational requirements focused way of documenting and resourcing air reserve component utilization for Air Force missions. This change is directed by a program guidance letter issued by the Air Force chief of staff to improve the service's visibility on operational requirements.

The new ARCORT data field for AROWS will link requirement documentation to requirement execution, providing the Air Force visibility over ARC operational utilization.

This shift to an operational requirements focused strategy for ARC utilization has been led by Maj. Gen. Vincent Mancuso, mobilization assistant to the Air Force chief of staff.

"Just like you might use the memo field on a personal check to create sub-totals of personal expenses, ARCORT will allow the director of operations to maintain visibility of the operational execution on various mission areas," Mancuso said.

"The intent of putting the ARCORT number in AROWS is to track all operational uses of ARC members, regardless of the type of man-day resource used," he said. "If you are performing duty on another type of order that qualifies as operational use, your unit's POC for the tasking or mission should be able to provide a specific ARCORT number. If you know the mission is an operational contribution and you don't know the ARCORT number, you can just put 9999999 in the ARCORT field."

Mancuso said the orderly room team member or commander's support staff team member who currently processes duty order requests in AROWS will usually have the responsibility of inputting the ARCORT number into AROWS.

"If you input your own orders details into AROWS, you will need to type the ARCORT for MPA and other select orders," he said.

Following are the answers to some common questions ARC members may have concerning the new AROWS data field:

So what is ARCORT?
ARCORT is a new information technology capability sponsored by the Air Force director of operations that provides visibility of all ARC operational requirements (including deployment requirements tracked in a global force management system). ARCORT is managed by a Total Force ARC Requirements Cell within the HQ USAF Operations Directorate.

So why do I need to put this additional information in AROWS?
The ARCORT field allows the Air Force director of operations to have far better visibility of the past, present and future operational contributions of the ARC. Just like people might use the memo field on a personal check to create sub-totals of personal expenses, ARCORT will allow the AF director of operations to maintain visibility of the operational execution in various mission areas.

What orders will be required to have an ARCORT number?
The only orders required to have an ARCORT number in fiscal year 2018 are the following Title 10 activations: full or partial mobilizations, presidential recalls, voluntary (contingency and non-contingency).

Are orders other than MPA required to have an ARCORT number?
Possibly. The intent of putting the ARCORT number in AROWS is to track all operational uses of ARC members, regardless of the type of man-day resource used (man-days, drills, AFTPs, etc.). If you are performing duty on another type of order that qualifies as operational use, your unit's POC for the tasking or mission should be able to provide a specific ARCORT number. If you know the mission is an operational contribution and you don't know the ARCORT number, you can just put 9999999 in the ARCORT field.

Who will input this number into AROWS?
For traditional reservists, it will usually be the orderly room team member or commander's support staff team member who currently processes duty orders requests in AROWS. If you input your own orders details into AROWS (individual mobilization augmentees, for instance), you will need to type the ARCORT for MPA and other select orders requiring an ARCORT number.

Where can I find the ARCORT number?
For an MPA order, the ARCORT number will be provided in the M4S authorization email message or generated on the E-form 49 in block 50. The list of ARCORT numbers associated with particular M4S numbers will be refreshed periodically and made available on ARC2Mission home page on the Air Force Portal.

If your duty order is funded by the ARC and will include the performance of operational mission tasks (e.g. flying a student sortie while on annual tour orders), the ARCORT number can be obtained via your MAJCOM, Defense Department agency or the Force Generation Center. Most orderly rooms will quickly know the ARCORT numbers for the common operational missions their units perform. There may be a bit of a learning curve in the first few months of implementation.

What if I don't have an ARCORT number for my mission and AROWS requires one?
For FY18, you can use "9999999" to ensure no delay in publishing your orders. "9999999" will serve as a flag for correction to the major command and the ARC Requirements Cell that can be fixed later.

Who can I contact for assistance?
The ARC Requirements Cell at AF/A3OD will assist you or your unit to resolve any problems you have getting the right ARCORT numbers for your AROWS orders.

Contact the ARC Requirements Cell at usaf.pentagon.af-cc.mbx.arc2-mission@mail.mil (email preferred) or at commercial 703.693.5133 or DSN 225-5133. The cell is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT.

September 21, 2017 at 1:38pm

Team McChord airmen honor prisoners of war

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Yeomans, Air Force Sergeants Association president, gives a speech during the POW/MIA wreath laying ceremony Sept. 11 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Divine Cox

Team McChord airmen participated in POW/MIA week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sept. 11-15 honoring all prisoners of war and those missing in action through daily remembrance events.  

The week's events included a wreath laying ceremony, motorcycle ride, 24-hour run and remembrance luncheon.  

An annual tradition at JBLM, POW/MIA week brings together airmen from all over JBLM to honor, remember and commemorate the service and sacrifice of POWs and those MIA. This year, more than 400 airmen participated in the different events that were put on by more than 70 volunteers.  

The week kicked off Sept. 11 with a wreath laying ceremony at Memorial Grove Park on McChord Field. The laying of the wreath was to reflect on and remember those POWs and MIAs who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"It's an absolute honor to remember these POWs," said Col. William Percival, 627th Air Base Group commander. "This is our heritage and this honors really who we are."      

The second event to take place during POW/MIA week was the POW/MIA Remembrance Ride Sept. 12 in Tacoma. More than 20 motorcyclists participated in the ride from Sprinker Park, Tacoma, to Orting Soldiers Home in Orting.    

One of the largest attended events was the POW/MIA Remembrance 24-hour run Sept. 13 through Sept. 14 at the McChord Field track.  

More than 300 airmen, soldiers and civilians ran continuous laps around the McChord Track from 8 a.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday. A POW/MIA flag was carried by various participants throughout 24 hours. Participants ran a combined total of 14,159 laps and 3,540 miles.       

"This is a remarkable group of people here, that as busy as they are with the service they already bring to our nation each and every day, took this time to be so vigilant and honor POWs/MIAs," said Col. Reba Sonkiss, 62nd Airlift commander. "A hearty thank you to all the Team McChord folks who put this together and all of JBLM."  

The week concluded with a POW/MIA Remembrance Day Luncheon held on Sept. 15 at the McChord Field Club. The luncheon hosted 13 former POWs from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam Conflict.  

The event's guest speaker was retired Maj. Joseph Crecca, former Vietnam War POW. Crecca told his story of being held captive as a POW for 2,280 days from November 1966 until his release in February 1973.  

"It is a great honor to host each of you," said Col. Percival. "It's truly an honor to dedicate ourselves to remembering your service and sacrifice."

September 21, 2017 at 1:34pm

Air Force announces 100 percent promotion opportunity to major

In the latest move to restore the Air Force's readiness and lethality, senior leaders are taking a closer look at officer performance management with a focus on developing leaders and retaining the talented professionals the service needs.

Over the last year, Headquarters Air Force has conducted research and developed recommendations on a variety of officer performance management related tools, to include evaluations and promotions. The goal is to better identify talent, future potential and plan for current and anticipated officer shortages.

"There have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System in nearly thirty years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers," said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services.

"Although the system hasn't changed, challenges with agility, efficiency, consistency and transparency have been documented by research and in the field for over twenty years," said Maj. Mike Lupher, chief of Workforce Development for the Air Force Talent Management Innovation Cell. "We recognized we needed to do something about it and are taking a comprehensive approach to addressing these challenges."

Field Grade Officer Requirements and Promotion Opportunity

One of the immediate needs senior leaders focused on was the service's requirement for growing and developing enough field-grade officers to meet mission demands. At 92 percent, the Air Force is currently undermanned in Line of the Air Force field-grade officers, with non-rated field-grade officers manned at 74 percent.

As such, beginning December 2017, the pool of line officers considered for promotion to major will have a 100 percent promotion opportunity. Promotion opportunity rates are typically adjusted as required to meet the needs of the Air Force.

"With this change, captains whose conduct has been exemplary can expect to be promoted to major," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. "We've been letting capable people leave the service and we need them."

Promotion Recommendation Forms will only be required for officers who receive a "Promote" recommendation and have derogatory information such as an Article 15, court-martial, referral report, or letter of reprimand filed in their Officer Selection Record, as well as for officers with a "Do Not Promote" recommendation.

"I fully trust raters and senior raters to continue to ensure the Air Force's high standards of conduct," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

More information about the initiative is available on myPers.

‘One more swing of the axe'

Goldfein also characterized the move as "one more swing of the axe" for him and Secretary Wilson to increase the lethality and readiness of the force, while smartly reducing administrative burdens on squadron commanders.

"This change, along with many other initiatives, will help reinforce our trust and confidence in squadron leadership and their management of our talented airmen," Goldfein said.

Air Force officials said they will continue to review the research and recommendations on how to improve officer performance management, and will announce new initiatives once they're approved and ready for deliberate phased implementation.

Other talent management initiatives recently implemented by the Air Force as part of its broader effort to restore readiness and lethality include continuing to grow the force, reducing unnecessary administrative burdens on airmen, alleviating unneeded Air Force instructions, providing commanders more say in developmental education opportunities, tackling the pilot retention crisis and more acutely focusing on the needs of airmen at the squadron level to ensure they are fully prepared to accomplish their missions.

September 21, 2017 at 1:31pm

Delivering aid from above

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III sits on the flightline at the St. Thomas airport Sept. 9 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz

In the brief respite between Hurricanes Irma and Jose, members of the 62nd Airlift Wing were able to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver much-needed supplies to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

"Friday (Sept. 8) at approximately 2:15 a.m., we received the phone call that they were going to use us," said Lt. Col. Brandon Tellez, 62nd Operations Support Squadron director of operations. "We boarded the jet for our initial mission, which was to head to Westover, Massachusetts, to pick up FEMA supplies, but about 90 minutes prior to arrival, the Tactical Air Control Center diverted us to Oceana, Virginia."

As situations continued to develop across the Caribbean and personnel and cargo remained in a state of flux, the relief team adapted to the fluidity of their unique mission.

"We had a really flexible team," Tellez said. "The five of us executed the mission as expertly as we possibly could with all the changes. We diverted to Oceana because there were personnel ready to go right away, and aid was needed right away."

According to Puerto Rican officials, Hurricane Irma killed at least three people, left millions without power and more than 50,000 without potable water.

"We carried fifty FEMA personnel who were a mix of urban search and rescue and medical folks to respond to Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico," said Senior Airman Zachariah Eye, 7th Airlift Squadron aircraft loadmaster.

Once that mission was complete, the crew was given a turn-around tasking.

"We took that group of fifty and all of their supplies down to San Juan," Tellez said. "We dropped them off and headed to Westover, which had been our original destination."

Upon arrival, loadmasters learned they would be dealing with drastically different cargo than they had in support of Puerto Rico relief.

"We had a diesel tanker truck, portable generator attached to a pickup truck, and a FEMA box truck," Eye said. "Most of the cargo we carry is already designed for airlift -- roll on, roll off. You don't have to do anything special with the ramp. However, because these were commercial vehicles, they were not designed for airlift.

"We had to use some ramps and other techniques to load the cargo on the aircraft without damaging either the vehicles or the aircraft. It wasn't quite as easy as the previous upload of personnel and pallets, but we made it work."

Like the delivery before, this load was initially earmarked for Puerto Rico, but was diverted to St. Thomas during the upload process. Once again, the crew took the changes in stride.

"We got all our ducks in a row and adapted to our new mission," Tellez said. "We arrived as the first C-17 Globemaster III into St. Thomas with FEMA supplies and found that airfield completely devastated. The runway was clear and the ramp was clear, but you could see the roofing material from the top of the terminal had all blown over and been pushed to the side. There were aircraft flipped over, upside down and in ditches. The windows were blown out and there was sea life washed inside the terminals after the flooding."

Though Tellez had involvement in earthquake relief after Haiti was devastated in 2010, he described his most recent relief-bringing effort as particularly fulfilling.

"It was very rewarding," Tellez said. "When we headed to St. Thomas and San Juan, it was after Hurricane Irma, but before Hurricane Jose. We were splitting two hurricanes just to get the FEMA supplies where they needed to be. You can't truck vehicles across the ocean into these islands, so the only source of immediate help is through airlift. That's what we were able to provide the cause."

A first-time experience for Eye, the minute-to-minute nature of the aid mission left a lasting impression.

"It's definitely the most dynamic environment I've ever been in during a mission," Eye said. "Usually when we leave, it's pretty much set in stone that we're going to go here, then here, and doing this; on this mission we just had to be flexible -- press with what you know, but be ready to change. It was a different and rewarding experience and I'm glad I was a part of it."

As the Atlantic continues to hurl storm after storm at the Caribbean and parts of the mainland United States, Tellez had these words of assurance to offer:

"I think I speak for all of the operations community when I say, this is what we want to be doing; this is what we love to do -- helping out and making a difference."

Recent Comments

nurisahi juan said:

This is real take it serious, my name is marian i, who will believe that a herb can Cure...

about JBLM soldier completes ALS

Ken Beseau said:

Its always a treat to be able to get on base and all of the planes from around the world come...

about AMC Rodeo to have new life

Electrician Rochester NY said:

Thanks for giving us nice info. Fantastic walk-through. I appreciate this post.

about Don't be shocked: 446th electricians find the spark

thomas candey said:

way to go usaf soon will be flying a kc46 air craft made right here in everett wash.not france...

about

Carol Kohl said:

do you have an It Works booth coming on Saturday? I would love to have a table. Check out my...

about McChord Holiday Bazaar set for Dec. 1