A Look Ahead...
By Col. Cliff James, 117th Air Refueling Wing Commander
/ Published December 15, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- As I write this article during a typical time of reflection in the middle of December (wondering if Santa thinks I've been naughty or nice), I think back on our accomplishments. Without a doubt, the 117th Air Refueling Wing had a very successful 2013 by any measurable criteria. Whether it was deployments, sortie rates, mission capable rates or individual medical readiness stats, the 117th was in the forefront and nationally recognized. This success can only be attributed to the dedication and professionalism of the Airmen in this Wing.
With our success during the past year in mind, I would like to bring to your attention the important events in the next 12-24 months. First, and foremost, is our Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection next year. It is one of our most important inspections (aren't they all) for us to perform well. We will have several Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercises in the months prior to the NORI as we finalize processes. It is important for everyone to know his or her job and role and to stay focused during these inspections.
Another inspection you may have heard about is the new Air Force Inspection System. This inspection system is a dramatic change from the past. Every Wing in the Air National Guard must be Commanders Inspection Program (CCIP) compliant by Oct 2014. AFIS depends heavily on each Wing creating a CCIP. The job of the CCIP is to plan, inspect and document exercises. It is also heavily dependent on unit execution of the self-inspection checklists contained in the Management Internal Control Toolset. It is critical for each point of contact to answer his or her checklist questions honestly! Your supervisors and commanders can't fix a problem if we don't know it exist. We can address issues, but it is unrealistic for every item in every checklist in the Wing to be GREEN. Approximately every 48-60 months, the Air Mobility Command's Inspector General will conduct a capstone event at the Wing to verify we have been accurately accomplishing checklists and conducting exercises. You will be hearing much more about AFIS over the next year.
As many are aware, we are transitioning from a "rainbow" deployment model back to the "bucket" model of years past. In the rainbow we provided forces all the time in small numbers. In the bucket system we will deploy during part of the year in large numbers. This is something you have been asking for and the KC-135 Weapons System Council has been instrumental in achieving.
At this time Congress has not passed a FY14 budget and we are operating on a Continuing Resolution Authority that expires Jan 15, 2014. We are hopeful a budget will be passed or at the very least; a CRA extension. The National Guard Bureau is ready to submit the FY15 budget, or Program Objective Memoranda, to Congress in the spring. The Air Force is submitting a FY15 POM with the assumption that sequestration will continue. This makes financial planning at the Wing very difficult, especially in regards to mandays and travel. The leadership of this Wing is proactively engaged with the NGB leadership, local politicians and our congressional representatives and senators to ensure the 117th is positioned for success in the future.
So how can you help? As my favorite coach would say, "Each player is important to the team." Each Airman should strive to be an expert in his or her field and perform his or her job well because they are all important to the mission. Each Airman must be medically and physically fit, because it makes the team stronger. If you do your part, the 117th team will succeed for generations to come.