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Meeting the challenges ahead

  • Published
  • By Col. David Almand
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
January has been one busy month! From our first Operational Readiness Exercise of the year to reviewing and prioritizing our budget requirements to just meeting all the day-to-day requirements of our missions, we've been hard at work!

I want to thank all those who helped make our first ORE a huge success and positive training environment for our team. There are literally hundreds of behind the scenes folks who make it possible to deploy and then employ at the deployed location. There are always challenges, but our team works together to identify them ... and then overcome them quickly.

We had a lot of young Airmen participating alongside seasoned veterans, so I appreciate all the mentoring and hands-on training you provided to each other. We've already identified areas for improvements, and we'll have several more training days plus another ORE in April to hone our skills. This installation has a very supportive community, and we all appreciate their patience and understanding as we balance our customer service mission with that of executing our operational requirements.

Maintaining that balance will be even more critical in the coming days as we work to determine and prioritize what we can perform and provide within very strict fiscal constraints. As you may have seen in the local news, the budgetary uncertainty and how it affects Scott AFB has made headlines and it's important for all of us to understand where we are with specific directives laid out by the Secretary of the Air Force.

Like all installations across the Air Force, we've been asked to take immediate actions to reduce our spending. I've asked all my groups, squadrons and flights to assess their mission requirements and prioritize their mission essential and other budgetary needs. By the end of next week, we'll have a clearer picture of where we are with our funding and proceed with a cautious spend plan. We're focusing on mission critical and mission essential items right now as we wait to receive further direction from our senior leaders.

As you may know, the Air Force has directed that we cancel all temporary duties that are not mission critical such as attendance at or hosting conferences and symposiums. The Air Force directed us to curtail flying not directly related to readiness, such as air shows, flyovers and familiarization rides. Scott AFB had already decided to go to an every other year air show and had not planned to do an air show this year. Until the Air Force re-instates the authorization or approval to host an air show, Scott AFB will not plan for one in the near future.

Currently, we are still flying missions directed by higher headquarters and those required for pilot training. Also, we are still planning to deploy for our ORE in the spring to prepare for our Operational Readiness Inspection in June.

We are complying with the directive to limit any supply purchases to essential consumption, such as bench stock for our flying missions, and to stop minor purchases that are not mission-essential, such as furniture buys, tech refreshes on our computer systems, and other unit equipment.

We have several construction projects ongoing that have already been obligated with funds, and those will not be affected. However, all contracts will be reviewed to determine cost savings or to see where, if practical, we can de-obligate ourselves or fund the projects incrementally. Specific guidance will be forthcoming from our acquisition channels. We are currently assessing the possible impacts this will have on our operations.

As with the Air Force guidance, any operations we perform that directly supports wartime operations and our Wounded Warrior programs will be funded. In addition, special emphasis will be placed on continued funding for family programs. It remains to be seen how this will affect other areas such as our civilian work force.

In other news, I wanted to let our community know that I've received a lot of feedback regarding the closing of the Mascoutah Gate and how that has impacted the time it takes to gain entry to our base. It's important that we facilitate a safe, smooth and timely flow onto our installation. I know many people already stagger the times they come through the gate, however, there are still times that by sheer volume of getting 13,000 people to work each day, the entry points can become unnecessarily lengthy.

To that end, and thanks to your feedback, we've identified and worked with St. Clair County officials to reprogram the stoplight outside of Belleville Gate, and we've added additional augmentees at the gate to help expedite entry. We are still monitoring the situation closely and appreciate the continued feedback. I want to make sure we get back to a good battle rhythm that works for all of us as we come to work each morning. I wish to thank all the volunteers and security forces personnel--including our contracted security officers--for helping all of us get to work each morning in a pleasant and safe manner. I ask for your patience as we continue to assess the situation.

We have a wonderful group of people who we get to work with every day, and it's going to be important during the next few months to work together to meet our challenges and succeed in our missions. Thanks for your support thus far, and let's keep focused on finding solutions!