McConnell commander shares views on priorities

  • Published
  • By Col. Jamie Crowhurst
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander
In a January article, I laid out our wing's top three priorities: Ready Mobility, Ready Airmen and their families, Ready Base. These three priorities enable us to provide superior warfighter support and help us all understand why we do what we do.

On the Fourth of July, our Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, provided a vector based on his and the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley's five priorities. I'd like to review those Air Force priorities and how our priorities go hand-in-hand with them.

The first Air Force priority is "Continue to Strengthen the Air Force Nuclear Enterprise" and Ready Mobility and Ready Airmen are right in line with this one. Our No-Notice Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection last October validated our ability to support U.S. Strategic Command in this no fail mission.

It requires a total team effort to generate aircraft and crews that can be launched at moment's notice to refuel bomber or command and control aircraft. This mission also requires precise command and control procedures that our command post controllers and aircrews regularly practice.

We also shined in our recurring CJCS assessments that exercise those procedures. This mission requires perfection and our quarterly Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercises in March and June continued to keep us focused.

The bottom line is we're committed to supporting the Nuclear Enterprise anytime our nation calls.

The second Air Force priority is to "Partner with the Joint and Coalition Team to win today's fight" and all three of our priorities enable us to do this. We consistently have 25 percent or more of our KC-135s Stratotankers deployed and refueling joint and coalition aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On at least a monthly basis, we or our 931st Air Refueling Group partners use one of our tankers to transport wounded warriors during aeromedical evacuation missions. Additionally, our special operations equipped tankers routinely support joint exercises that keep these unique warfighters ready to execute.

All of this ready mobility happens because we have great aircrews, maintainers, aircrew flight equipment, flight records, crew comm., POL, weather, intel and flight medicine Airmen that are deployed with the aircraft supporting those joint operations.

At any given time, approximately 400 of our teammates are deployed somewhere supporting a combatant commander and they continue to do extraordinary things while deployed. We recently recognized Bronze Star Medal recipients Maj. Paul Silas, 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron commander, and Maj. Chris Haiar, 22nd Medical Operations Support Squadron, for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of our Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen, Staff Sgt. Eric Farley, was recognized by KAKE 10 News as their annual Hometown Hero for his dedication to duty during multiple deployments to Afghanistan.

Additionally, our ready base helps our partners in the 184th Intelligence Wing provide around the clock near real time analysis of predator feeds that joint warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan use to take action. If we don't keep their communication lines up, that vital mission cannot happen.

Our Ready Airmen and families priority dovetails perfectly with the third Air Force priority, "Develop and Care for Airmen and their families." We purposefully consider your physical, social, mental and spiritual fitness because making our mission happen can be very demanding. Our Community Action and Information Board meets quarterly to assess how our Airmen and their families are doing in these areas.

Additionally, the McConnell Integrated Delivery System meets monthly to ensure the programs we're running work together to provide for your development and care. McIDS is made up of helping agencies from across the base like the Chapel, Airmen and Family Readiness Center, Mental Health, Family Advocacy, the Health and Wellness Center, and a host of other agencies. The goal is to combine the resources of all these great programs into events that help build a sense of community and belonging for our team.

These efforts to improve ourselves are part of our heritage if you consider that our Air Force started because Airmen thought there was a better way to conduct operations then just over the ground.

The fourth Air Force priority, "Modernize our Air and Space Inventories, Organizations and Training," is also tied to our Ready Mobility and Ready Airmen priorities. One of the keys to providing ready mobility is having well trained aircrews and well trained maintainers. With large portions of our force consistently deployed, flying local missions can be a challenge.

Our flyers need to fly for their training but our maintainers also need airplanes on the ground to train and do preventative maintenance to keep our nearly 50-year-old tankers reliable. It's a balancing act between operations and maintenance for us and our 931st ARG partners.

Fortunately, we have forward thinking Airmen, including several who got together last August to take a look at our scheduling processes to ensure we have the right balance of ops and maintenance training built into our flying program. Nearly a year later we've seen huge benefits as our junior maintenance force gets more seasoned and our flyers continue to stay at the top of the command for training completion. It's a total force effort as our 931st partners have been growing significantly in their maintenance capacity and deployment requirements.

The final Air Force priority is "Recapture Acquisition Excellence," is related to us because it is a direct tie to our Ready Base priority. If you work in the contracting or civil engineer squadron you probably know we spend a large amount of dollars on contract services to maintain our installation.

The big three are grounds maintenance, custodial and refuse services and they all impact your work environment. A key component in the acquisition of those services is the feedback that you as the customer provide. Overall, our contractors provide us excellent service but if they do not, then we need you to provide timely feedback so we can help them improve or get a more customer-focused contractor.

We've been blessed with tremendous congressional support to fund our buildings, roads and other infrastructure and you take great pride in maintaining/sustaining these resources. By expecting excellence from our contractors we support this Air Force priority and ensure we have a ready base that supports ready Airmen producing ready mobility.

I don't think it's an accident that the center of the Air Force priorities is Airmen and their families...without you all the other things we want to do would not be possible.

According to the Chief's vector, nearly 40,000 Airmen are deployed to 263 locations around the globe helping to defend our nation. Each of us has a part to play ensuring our teammates deployed and at home are successful and you make me so proud with how well you play your part. Thank you!