A/TA focuses on awards, AMC issues
by 1st Lt. Erin Dorrance
From highlighting young leadership award winners to precision air drop, the Airlift Tanker Association Convention and Symposium covered many important issues within Air Mobility Command.
The 36th annual convention, themed "Mobility: Marathon for Freedom," was held Oct. 28 through 31 in Dallas, Texas. The conference was attended by more than 3,000 people; including 53 from MacDill.
The highlight of the convention was an award ceremony that included twelve A/TA Young Leadership Awards, with one presented to Tech. Sgt. Michael J. Hassett, 6th Security Forces Squadron. Sergeant Hassett provided security for MacDill's first presidential visit in more than 40 years. In the past he was selected as the AMC and MacDill NCO of the Year, 2003; Service Member of the Year, Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar, 1999; and Staff NCO of the Year, 6th Security Forces Squadron, 2002.
After the awards ceremony the informational portion of the convention began.
Featured speakers during the convention included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper, Commander of U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command Gen. John W. Handy and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force.
Gerald R. Murray spoke to the A/TA members about current military issues.
Several seminars, which were titled visions, people, global mobility task force concept of operations, modernization, ingenuity and information technology and lessons learned were incorporated into the convention.
The precision air drop seminar covered the growing need to "drop supplies on target." Operation Iraqi Freedom is an asymmetrical battlefield in which the enemy is coming at U.S. troops and coalition forces from every direction. Convoys have become very dangerous. Currently there are 10 Airmen from the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron supporting the U.S. Army with convoy support. Although precision air drop will never replace convoy movement, Air Force leadership hopes that precision air drop will supplement supply efforts.
Several seminars covered the aging KC-135 fleet. KC-135s provide 90 percent of the Air Force's refueling capability. There are 350 KC-135s in the fleet with an average age of 44.5 years.
"You can't take a geriatric aircraft and make it last forever," said General Handy during his speech to the convention.
"While driving a 40-year-old car, which is very well taken care of, is fun, it is totally different to take a 40-year-old aircraft into combat," said Lt. Col. Slim Morgan, Air Mobility Command chief of tanker requirements branch. "These airplanes were never meant to be flown this long. We are the first generation to be in the territory of flying these planes at this age and we are putting more hours on them than we have in the past."
Air Force officials are waiting for Secretary of Defense Dr. Ronald H. Rumsfeld to decide about the aging KC-135 fleet in the next couple months.
There was also discussion about civilian companies that offer possibility of contracting air refueling for the Air Force. The U.S. Navy already out sources some of its air refueling with a civilian company. Air Force officials are aware that civilian air refueling companies are interested in some of the Air Force's "boom" business but, before seriously considering that option, they have questions about homeland training requirements and refueling missions in hostile territory.
The Air Force's plan to install the Roll On Beyond line of sight Enhancement, or ROBE, on every KC-135 was also highlighted. ROBE provides data links which process threat and targeting information.
Many KC-135 crewmembers asked why 29 KC-135s were grounded recently since the aging fleet is so heavily tasked with missions. General Handy removed the aging aircraft from the flying schedule for safety of flight reasons based on the recommendation of the KC-135 Systems Program Office and the independent Fleet Viability Board. The aircraft will remain off the schedule until Air Force leadership has fully evaluated the results of the Fleet Viability Board recommendations.
Other KC-135 crewmembers asked if AMC plans to install a defense system aboard the aircraft. Colonel Morgan assured the attendees that AMC plans to put defense systems on all mobility aircraft. He said the command is waiting for funding for this project and, once funding is received, the aircraft with the highest risk will be the first to receive the modifications.
In addition to remarks on operational matters, General Handy talked about the Base Realignment and Closure process.
"We desperately need a BRAC process," said General Handy.
In the last 12 to 14 years, the Air Force has drawn down weapon systems and people by 43 percent, but not infrastructure, he said. Although the BRAC process is short, it can take years to close down a base. The BRAC list should be published in the beginning of 2006, he said.
In addition to discussing issues with senior leaders and career field experts, the A/TA conference allowed attendees a chance to see some of their coworkers win awards, reunite with friends and coworkers, and meet new friends.