Friday, September 18, 2015

TOP STORY >> Base always on missions, target same

Leader executive editor

Col. Charles E. Brown, Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, drove last week to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., for a total-force symposium. The 19th AW is part of Air Mobility Command, which is headquartered at Scott.

The 18th Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Sharpy, hosted the conference. Brig. Gen. Patrick Mordente, vice commander of the 18th Air Force and a former 314th Operations Group commander at LRAFB, was also there.

“A Little Rock tribe that still circles back to Air Mobility Command,” is how Brown described some of the leadership at AMC who did several tours at the Jacksonville base.

Maj. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, a former commander of both the 314th Airlift Wing and the 19th Airlift Wing at LRAFB, is now vice commander of Air Mobility Command. He could not attend the symposium, but he and Brown have worked together before.

Brown said, “Gen. Schatz brought me back to Little Rock” when the general ran the base here in 2007-09.

Schatz is a protégé of Gen. Norton Schwartz, an influential former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, now retired, who trained at LRAFB and reorganized the Air Force, including its nuclear program where accountability was often lacking.

“Air Mobility Command is the most collegiate and professional general force I’ve seen in my 21 years collectively. We have a great generation of senior leaders out there. Gen. Schwartz put a lot of effort making sure we were developing officers who embrace core values he was looking at,” Brown said.

“They’re very smart, savvy, business conscious, combat tested,” Brown said in a recent interview with The Leader. “I guess those are leaders you get after 14 years of warfare. You repeat the lessons and didn’t want to repeat bad lessons.

The 19th Airlift Wing is constantly on the move. Some 170 airmen returned this week from Afghanistan, while others left here the week before for the Horn of Africa. LRAFB often leads the way in Air Force.

“We’ve been benchmarked,” Brown said, “whether it’s in the sexual-assault prevention program the Air Force is rolling out, we’re going to be the lead on that. It’s because of our ability to care for our airmen.

“The regional flexibility Little Rock Air Force Base provides — you just can’t match it. So when you get that special blend of mission and at-home advantage, it’s a win-win,” the commander said.

He continued, “They don’t teach you really how to command. You really learn from watching others. They talk about the Air Force culture. The culture is defined as something you inherently believe in either because you grew up observing it or you watched it in people you respect and you gravitate to that common value and culture.

“When you grow up with folks that we watched, and leaders, not all of them are great, and some of them had good times and bad times and worse times, but you take all of it and you learn the good, bad and the ugly, as it were, and you decide what type of leader you want to be by trying to either repeat things that you liked or you avoid things that you didn’t.

Brown, a former National Security Fellow at Harvard, is a C-130 navigator and pilot and a former F-15E combat pilot who saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq. His family is from Kentucky, but he grew up in Florida and graduated from Florida State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice before he joined the Air Force.

As the Air Force emphasizes efficiency in a tight fiscal environment, Brown sees the base not so much downsizing as rightsizing. The base has 72 C-130 H/J aircraft – 22 percent of the total Air Force C-130 fleet.

LRAFB, celebrating its 60th anniversary in October, has done well in an era of base closings, although the 19th AW will have fewer C-130Js and a much smaller crew because the new planes are more technologically advanced. The 19th AW is cutting its fleet by almost half.

The 19th used to have three 54 airplanes, Brown said. “We’ll be down to 28 Js. The old C-130s had three aircrews with five-person crews. Now we’re down to two crews per airplane with only three people per air crew.”

With half the planes and half the crew, staffing takes a lot fewer people. The old C-130s needed 810 airmen to operate, but with C-103J, it now takes just 168 airmen.

“You can see the downscoping here,” Brown continued. “One of the goals I have here is to make sure the wing is right-sized, that it’s balanced for the new C-130J program. We’re in the middle of that math equation of how will this look like when we’re finally sized to a C-130J wing.”

“We’ve shown we can work with partners and share infrastruture. We’ve spent 60 years here and the Air Force has continued to invest in missions into this base. They’re all different, but they’ve found value, despite all the shifts in missions.”

“It’s a beautiful base. We have our congressional delegates and senators and their representatives come out here and they’re absolutely floored at how wisely Little Rock has invested its money through its infrastructure and its mission. We don’t have unused space. We don’t have excess infrastructure. We don’t have vacant buildings with big signs on them, ‘Awaiting demolition.’

“Everything is very thoughtful in the way it’s laid out here, and all of it supports the mission in which every command you’re in,” he continued.

The base has five key commands matched to work together seamlessly: Air Combat Command, Air Education Command, Air Mobility Command, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves.

“So when you look at that, all flying C-130 missions out of a singular base with a single runway, and all of them are successful. I don’t think you can match it, I really don’t. We have a lot of things we do right.

“You can see the downscoping here,” Brown continued. “One of the goals I have here is to make sure the wing is right-sized, that it’s balanced for the new C-130J program. We’re in the middle of that math equation of how will this look like when we’re finally sized to a C-130J wing.

“We’ve shown we can work with partners — share infrastruture. We’ve spent 60 years here and the Air Force has continued to invest in missions into this base. They’re all different, but they’ve found value.

“The reason Air Force Reserves wanted to partner with us and the C-130J at Little Rock and not at any other bases, they knew it would be successful. We’ve shown we can work with partners, collaborate, share infrastructure and mission sets and runway, as well as quality of life, medical, commissary, BX, fitness center, you think of the multitude of things that go into five different commands, and the requirements that go into them, and selectively pick out that are unique to them, and then make it something that’s synergistic with them the entire installation, it’s a great relationship and design that we have here.

The 19th Airlift Wing includes combat command in the 19th Operations Group, the 19th Mission Support Group and the 19th Maintenance Group; the 314th Airlift Wing is part of Air Education and Training Command, while the C-130 division of the Air Force Weapons School is under Air Combat Command.

The base also includes Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, which reports to Air Education and Training Command. The 913th Airlift Wing is assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command and works with the 19th Airlift Wing’s 50th Airlift Squadron.

The Reserves have approximately 700 members, a third of them fulltime.

All together, 5,771 active-duty airmen and 546 civilians work on base, along with 5,582 family members.

Brown was installed as commander in May and expects to stay here for two years, as do most commanders.

“I want to make sure the base is right sized for the C-130J mission,” he explained, “and just two years isn’t enough time. By the time you get your stride, you’re wrapping up. You almost need a third year.

Brown said there are no plans in the Pentagon to move 10 C-130Js from Keesler AFB in Mississippi.

Cong. French Hill (R-Ark.) says the Air Force would save $50 million over the next five years by consolidating them at the Jacksonville air base.

“One of the things I try to tie everyone to is that this mission that we have of combat airlift is really a mindset. It’s really a culture. The C-130 just happens to be the weapons system were performing in. Combat airlift is really an attitude and a culture and a mindset.

“The community made all those missions successful,” he continued. “It’s the community that makes the C-130 mission successful.

‘The C-130J will probably be here 30 to 40 more years, but we’ve done 60 years here. There aren’t too many bases that could say the same thing, and the Air Force has continued repeatedly to invest missions into this base.”

They’re all different, he said, but the military has found good value in basing them here.