Brig. Gen. Michael Brewer, 412th Test Wing commander, held three Commanders Calls May 29 in the Base Theater to address current topics in the test wing. The first of those issues, was evaluating the structure in the wing, which will include some reductions in the aircraft fleet.
The wing is scheduled to loose nine aircraft total, eight of which will be F-16s and one bomber in fiscal year 2015. The first five F-16s will be lost as early as the end of summer. “We used to think of those airplanes as sort of our test support fleet–our shadow aircraft on our test fleet,” said Brewer.
As a result, the test wing will realign to consolidate smaller fleets. All of the T-38s and remaining F-16s will all be assigned to the 416th Flight Test Squadron. Gas line training on C-12s will fall under the 419th FLTS. The 445th FLTS, the former home of the shadow fleet, C-12s and tankers, will go away.
All tankers will fall under the 418th FLTS, including the Speckled Trout, a specially modified KC-135, which was formerly used for distinguished visitor flights under the 412th FLTS as well as a communications test aircraft.
“We will no longer do the DV mission, we’ll keep the airplane and use it as a test platform and use it as a test tanker,” said Brewer.
By fiscal year 2016, the wing will have two bombers left, one B-52 and one B-2. The possibility of a second B-2 is still being addressed.
Representatives from different groups also spoke to the attendees.
Lt. Col. Michael Rakoczy, 412th Mission Support Group deputy commander, addressed the rumors surrounding force reduction among enlisted men and women. According to Rakoczy, the math seems simple, 25,000 reductions out of 300,000 active duty people for the Air Force. But the math, he assured, is “a little more complex than that.”
Air Force early out programs like VSP and TERA (voluntary separation pay and Temporary Early Retirement Authority) have been so successful that Airmen are being turned away because enough people in their career field already volunteered.
Though some squadrons are facing reductions, the test wing has also expanded to oversee facilities and security at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.
Along with some of the physical changes to the wing comes a change in attitude towards the Air Force wing inspection system. The new inspection system is designed to encourage units to be inspection-ready year round.
Under the old system, organizations would “cram for the test” right before an inspection.
“You try and hide the things you’re doing wrong and the special team comes in and they take a snapshot look, and if they don’t see [the problems], you win,” said Brewer.
Instead of a system that rewards quick fixes and hidden problems, the new system encourages personnel to find their own errors, come up with a solution and track their progress on implementing the solution. Wing Inspection Team members, from within each unit, will be available for inspections year-round.
“They’re coming down, not to see how well we’re doing, but to see how well we can find our own mistakes and fix them on our own,” said Brewer. “They’re going to see if you’re writing yourself up and see that you’re either really, really good, or you can’t find your own mistakes.”
Lt. Col. Gregg Beeber 412th Test Wing Inspector General, shared that the new inspection format is designed to look for the risk of undetected non-compliance. Instead of a major command snapshot, the inspections will be continual throughout the year and include unit inspections as well.
Brewer also gave an update on Project84, which is “going very well.” In terms of base operating dollars, the project has inspired almost $180,000 in savings, and many of the ideas are recurring for annual savings.
Despite budget cuts, the community still finds ways to stay involved. The first annual Edwards AFB half marathon “Run with History” brought hundreds of people to the lakebed to run. Next year the goal is have 1,000 participants and eventual up to 5,000.
Brewer shared that the action plan for the next 18 months is being put together now. For those who have ideas for the action plan, they should forward the ideas to their squadron or group commander.
Every item in the plan “is going to get done, so the time is now.”