General Paul Selva, Commander, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., visited March Air Reserve Base Monday, March 31, 2014, to see first-hand how Total Force Integration at the Southern California base works.
Upon arrival at the Reserve 336th Air Refueling Squadron (the first and oldest ARS in the Air Force) and the active-associate 912th ARS (the newest ARS in the Air Force), who share a building and a mission seamlessly, Selva learned more about why the integration works so well.
Lt. Col. Scott Minton, 912 ARS commander, explained to Selva the meticulous process used to upgrade squadron members, beneficial because of the integration.
Minton said the reason the 912 ARS members are able to upgrade quickly is because the Air Force Reserve Command mission set is so much more expansive than what the active duty flying squadrons get on a normal, daily basis.
That, combined with Tanker/Airlift Control Center taskings for the active associate squadron, allows them to meet what Minton sees as a broader experienced aviator than their counterparts.
“That is one of the true benefits unit members get from working with the Reserve,” Minton said.
The general then met with several squadron members for an impromptu question and answer session where he spoke about the KC-135.
“It’s an easy aircraft to fly and to maintain, and all that would be simple if it was new, but it’s not. It’s 55 years old,” Selva said. “That means every time you go out and do maintenance on them, every time you turn a bolt, remove a rivet, open a panel, you are literally making history because nobody has flown a military airplane for that lifetime, anywhere, that I know of.”
Selva said they don’t know what the next chapter looks like in the writing of the 135 history, but that it is going to be flying for another 25 years.
He listed his four priorities as Presidential support, the nuclear mission, managing forces for the nuclear mission and moving Special Operations Forces.
“I can’t say no when the President says he wants to go, which means I have to have tankers ready to refuel, C-17s and C-5s ready to move his stuff, and Air Force One ready to fly.”
If there is a threat to the actual survival of the nation, the nuclear support mission and the forces that support it must be ready. Selva said that means they have to be refueled, because once they take off with those weapons on board, they can’t land (to refuel).
Finally, if the President says to go execute a mission and it requires high-end SOF, tankers will be a part of that mission.
“I cannot let the force dwindle into this tiered readiness. Can’t do it. That will not happen in AMC,” Selva said. “I will spread the pain out across every squadron, every crew if I have to and squeeze the amount of time for you to stay current, but I’m not going to let you go non-current.”
To better manage the budget, AMC will take 16 C-17s and put them in back-up aircraft inventory to manage the age on the fleet, which currently ranges from 20 years to one that’s almost brand new, Selva said. The C-17 crew ratios will be cut across all unit-equipped organizations.
“It saves us flying hours, save us time on the airplanes and allows us to distribute the hours on the fleet better.”
Some of the KC-135s will be moved around, as the KC-46 comes on board, to keep units open, Selva said.
It also makes sense to retire the KC-10 as the KC-46 enters the inventory, Selva said. Looking at 2018 for KC-10s to be cut, Selva said if the service is fully sequestered in 2016, then he will have no other choice than to begin earlier.
“It takes about $2.5 million a year to operate a (KC) 135 airplane and a little more than $12 million for the KC-10,” Selva said. “All the data that we have on the 767 (KC-46) tells us that it will take about $5 million to operate the 46, and it does everything a KC-10 will do except it doesn’t take off with 593,000 pounds. But neither does a KC-10 when it’s 105 degrees.”
The choices are hard, but the political reality is that for everything Congress wants to keep, they have to find something else to get rid of, Selva said.
“So far, the appetite for doing that work exists only among us in uniform. I’ve spent a lot of time working the Congress over, because it’s important that we get it right,” Selva said.
He encouraged Airmen to send him e-mails if they had an idea for doing something better and said he would not tell anyone where it came from. He said he is in the Global Address Listing.
“We can only do what we do because of you, because we trust each other, and we have got to take care of each other. It’s fundamental to who we are,” Selva said. “When we don’t honor that, we really tear away at what we are as Airmen. I’ve been at this for 34 years. If it wasn’t so much fun working with you and working for you, I wouldn’t put this uniform on every day. I come to work because all of you. Thank you for what you do.”