KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The Commander of Air Combat Command visited Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 8, to meet with Airmen and leadership during a tour of the Southwest Asia Area of Responsibility.
Gen. Mike Hostage said understanding the conditions and expectations of the Airmen here will help to ensure training standards continue to prepare Airmen to meet all aspects of future deployments.
“One promise that I will make, that I will die before I give up on it, is that I will not send an Airman over here who is not trained and equipped to do the job,” Hostage said.
While meeting with Airmen of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Hostage took time to answer multiple questions. The questions ranged from retrograde of the mission in Afghanistan, fiscal restraints and training, to future Air Force development and operations.
“After we’re done with Afghanistan are we all going home and stopping this deployment stuff?” Hostage asked. “Sadly, no. When I first came in the Air Force we had 700,000 Airmen. Since then we’ve cut ourselves in half. We have 500 fewer airplanes than we had back then. Back then, we had 11 fighter wings in Europe. Today we have three. Yet, we’re required to be forward during peacetime. That hasn’t gone down, in fact it has gone up. For our Air Force that means a continuous ops tempo, maybe not the same places, and maybe not the same types of missions.”
Hostage said that Airmen will see things like retraining and a slimming of the fleets as fiscal budgets continue to tighten.
“We can meter our numbers and bring in a few less and let a few more leave who want to leave; so we can adjust the numbers over time to get our force numbers down,” Hostage said. “The problem is when we have to come down in those numbers faster than those voluntary means can get us there. That’s when we have to do things like career job reservations. If you’re in an overage career field, there are times when we have to say, ‘Well I’m sorry, I know you want to reenlist, but we don’t have room for you in your career field, so you don’t get to reenlist. However, if you want to retrain into one of our shortest career fields then you can probably stay.’ That’s the type of things that you’ll see as we move forward.”
Talk of moving forward brought questions from Airmen about future programs and policies.
“I’m fighting hard to keep our future programs on track,” Hostage said. “So today we have F-15s and F-16s that are 25, almost 30 years old. Most fighters are meant to last about eight to 10 years. We’ve got them triple that. They’re still very capable, and they’re still better than anything else out there. But, we’ve got folks out there who are building the next generation of competitive airplanes. They potentially can be much more capable than an F-15 or an F-16.
“Eventually we have to replace our old airframes,” Hostage said. “We’re still having political problems because it’s expensive to buy new airplanes, and it’s expensive right in a time when our budget is being constrained.”
Hostage concluded the visit with Airmen by saying he was impressed by the questions addressed to him.
“Today’s Airmen are very smart,” he said. “They ask the hard, important questions and genuinely take an interest in the future of their Air Force.”
Hostage has several other stops scheduled to meet with Airmen all around the AOR. He said meeting Airmen here allowed him a better understanding of expectations and requirements and gave him a chance to address concerns of deployed Airmen.