Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TOP STORY >> Commander sees growth

Leader staff writer

Col. Brian Robinson, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, predicts more personnel at the base, which would reduce deployment times for overworked airmen.

He was the guest speaker for the Cabot Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

“By and large, if the proposal that has been put forward in the (2013 fiscal year) budget plan goes forward with this portion approved, Little Rock Air Force Base is going to see net growth of about 6 percent in terms of personnel. So, at Little Rock Air Force Base, we’re not going to see downsizing,” Robinson told the full house at First Baptist Church.

That 6 percent is the 370 active duty airmen the Air Force plans on sending to the 19th AW. Another 790 people will form a new Reserves unit here. That means a gain of up to 1,110 airmen for LRAFB, pushing the number of military personnel above 8,000.

The 370 airmen are “going to relieve some of the burden on what we called our deployed time, the amount of time away and the amount of time back, because our crew ratio is going to go up by about a factor of 2.5 crews per aircraft assigned.”

More will be demanded of the 314 Airlift Wing, which trains C-130 crews for the Air Force and allied nations.

“With regard to the 314th, it’s going to give them more manpower to increase the training we see coming in the next year and a half. They’re going to be expected to produce more C-130 crew members than they do today,” Robinson explained after the luncheon.

He told the luncheon guests that most airmen deploy for 179 days, which is about six months. Some are gone for 120 days, which is about four months, and others are away from home for a year. The base has been on steady deployment since September 2001.

Robinson said, “Some civilian positions, a small amount of those, roughly 10 percent of that, will go away. Frankly, those are coming back from positions that we brought on as we back filled active-duty members who went forward into Afghanistan and Iraq. The theory is that those active-duty will be back and fulfill those duties.”

LRAFB released its economic impact analysis this week. According to the report, the base had a total economic impact of $780 million in 2011, an increase of about $2 million from 2010.

That number is double from a little over a decade ago. In 2000, the economic impact was $351 million.

Robinson briefly spoke about what is happening with the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at LRAFB.

“(The 189th is) only going to see a small reduction at Little Rock Air Force Base. It’s a different story out of Fort Smith. They are going to see a significant change in their mission. Our mission here is going to stay the same. We’re still the training center of excellence for C-130 air crews and maintenance.”

According to next fiscal year’s proposed defense budget, the Air Force may cut 10,000 airmen and 65 C-130s, including one C-130 from the 189th AW and two C-130s from the new Reserves unit in the next five years.


The Air Force recently announced that it would spend $9.36 million on up to 18,000 iPad 2s to replace the bags of paper and navigation charts pilot and navigators carry.

“All of our crew members, air crews, will get them,” Robinson said after the luncheon. “It’s about reducing reliance on paper. It’s a cost-cutting measure. It’s also leveraging the technology to help our guys be able to prepare for their missions, study for their missions and execute their missions.

“One of the big points is, right now, they’re required to carry about an 80-pound publications kit aboard the airplane. It has all their aeronautical navigation charts. (The iPad 2s are) a lot easier to tote, and also that’s another 80 pounds we won’t have to carry on the aircraft. So, it’s fuel savings, or, if we have to watch every ounce of capacity of the airplane, that’s 80 pounds of something else, cargo or passengers, we can carry.”

Robinson told the crowd at the luncheon that the Air Force is trying to be more efficient and continue providing the services airmen and their families need.

He said, “We’re going through a services transformation. Our challenge is about 80 percent of the population at LRAFB actually lives in the community. So a lot of that support that they get they get is from the community. I honestly don’t have any preference where they get their support, one way or the other. I care about whether they have it. The confidence factor, the trust factor is the baseline, the expectation, is met.

“If something does emerge and they always do, they know who to call quickly for support. My job and (314th AW commander Col. Mark Czelusta’s) job is to make sure that your needs, your family’s needs are largely met while they’re here. So that when you’re in Afghanistan during a mission, you can focus on your mission and not have to worry too much about what’s going on back here.”

Robinson said when troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, which is planned for 2014, airmen will return to training as they did in the 1980s and 1990s after the Cold War.

He said airmen have been in the fight for the past 14 or 15 years. Some don’t know anything else, and they will be constantly preparing for a fight instead of engaging in one after troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

“Thank you for your support. Our airmen rely on it,” Robinson said.