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Force Shaping means fewer officers due to congressional law

by 2nd Lt. Omar Villarreal
Chief of Internal Information
Photo by 2nd Lt. Omar Villarreal

1st Lt. Michael Laubach asks Brig. Gen. Mark R. Zamzow a question about Force Shaping. Roughly 40 officers at MacDill will be affected.

It will affect thousands of junior active duty officers, it will save the Air Force $200 million a year and it will take the meaning of one of the Air Force's core values to another level.

What is it? Force Shaping...the "it" that affects futures.

Brig. Gen. Mark R. Zamzow, Inspector General at Headquarters Air Mobility Command came to MacDill Tuesday as the AMC lead for the "Force Shaping Spread-the-Word" trip. His Objective: to explain the rationale behind force shaping to the CGOs meeting the board and base leadership, while also providing details regarding the actual board and its related processes. Following his briefing, the general answered several questions by CGOs from different Air Force Specialty Codes.

General Zamzow said the Air Force's Core Values should always be in the mind of an Airman. Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do are not just words, but ideas servicemembers live by and are willing to die for.

Soon, "Service before Self" will look a little different for a handful of company grade officers at MacDill.

The reason…the Air Force has been given a number which states how many servicemembers it is allowed to have by the end of the 2006 fiscal year. And a plan has been developed to meet the annual, congressionally mandated, end strength. That plan calls for the shaping of the company grade officer corps on an annual basis, starting in April 2006 with the first Force Shaping Board.

"The Air Force's recent accession profiles created junior officer surpluses, giving the Air Force an additional 4,000 CGO's who are filling overage positions in their career fields," said General Zamzow. "Not reducing the officer surplus, specifically in the 2002 and 2003 commissioning year groups, would lead to fewer leadership positions, reduced educational opportunities and ultimately far more competitive promotion boards. Additionally, we are required to sustain a total force no greater than the authorized end strength level of 357,400 personnel. For the sake of these officers and our institution, this situation needs to be resolved."

General Zamzow went on to say that Airmen must also realize the Air Force's end strength number is firm, it is not expected to increase and the Air Force will not receive additional funding to offset those higher personnel costs. As a result, the surplus must be resolved through a Force Shaping Board.

"The Air Force's senior leaders care about this situation immensely and are doing everything in their power to provide viable career options to the servicemembers affected," said General Zamzow.

Force shaping affects nearly 30 servicemembers at the wing level here and approximately 12 others from mission partners throughout MacDill. Those officers with affected AFSCs from the 2002 and 2003 commissioning groups will soon meet the Force Shaping Board and virtually all scheduled PCSs, for those affected, will be postponed until after the board's results are announced on June 1, 2006.

"Our people make the Air Force what it is today and will be the ones who make the Air Force of tomorrow," said Major Susie Lewis, Military Personnel Flight Commander. "Force Shaping is not something the Air Force originally anticipated a necessity, but keeping in mind the big picture Air Force and mission needs, is now moving forward with."

The Force Shaping plan might be tough on some, but should give both those who stay in and those who get out an opportunity to achieve success. Programs have been developed and opportunities for government work will still be available for those who are involuntarily separated. For more information about the Force Shaping Board and career programs available outside of the Air Force visit www.afpc.randolph.af.mil and click on the Force Shaping button.

Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in all we do: the values an Airman follows. As hard as it might be to see how important Service before Self is during the Force Shaping period, an Airman thinks not of himself, but of the team as a whole. The Air Force is not releasing servicemembers because they're not appreciated for the work they've done, but the Air Force is releasing servicemembers because there is a congressionally mandated end strength that must be attained and because the overage of officers cannot be properly developed.

The General's advice to the CGO is to think positive, explore other career avenues and stay motivated.

General Zamzow answered the following questions regarding the Air Force's Force Shaping plan during his visit to MacDill.

1. What would not reducing the officer corps do to the Air Force and its members?

"If the Air Force did nothing with the surplus officers, career development in the year groups affected would be drastically impacted. There just wouldn't be enough opportunities in their functional areas to work as flight commanders, get deployments or accomplish important projects. It would limit their professional development drastically and hurt the Air Force's growth as well."

2. Should we expect this yearly?

"Yes. Following the initial board in April 2006 the Air Force will have a Force Shaping Board for officers in their third year of service. This will be a policy option for the Air Force for the long term. The Army and Marines hold a Force Shaping Board at the same point in time for their services already. In the future this could mean readjusting personnel into undermanned AFSCs, but involuntary separation could still be an option for the board."

3. Why would the Air Force downsize when many are over worked and undermanned?

"Manpower analysis is a key component within Force Shaping. The Air Force has to make sure we have the right number of positions identified to sustain the force and accomplish the mission over the long term. The analysis reflects we're over strength. Yes, we are working harder with this "new reality" regarding the Global War on Terrorism, but we must maintain the end strength limitation and continue to find efficiencies as we accomplish our missions."

4. How is this going to affect Air Force recruiting and retention?

"Normal expectations for a new officer had been that the first real competitive time in their career is when they meet the major's board. Now officers coming in will have an additional challenge at the three year point. I don't think people are going to look at this as a significant hurdle to overcome and not want to come into the Air Force."

5. What is the Air Force doing to ensure servicemember morale stays up during the Force Shaping periods?

"The Air Force is being very straight forward with this issue. We are telling everyone how we got here and letting people know the additional opportunities, ADSC waivers, and benefits that are out there. At the same time we need to continue to express our thanks to all the officers meeting the FSB: across the board, they've been foundational to allowing our Air Force to successfully execute our missions."

6. The Air Force is already a competitive institution, what is going to be done to eliminate the lookout for "me" attitude?

"Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do - our Core Values! Our institution works very hard at keeping those values at the forefront. I really believe that in order to succeed in any line of work, you do what you can for the team as a first order of priority. We must remember that "we" is always above "me" as an approach to service and life."

7. We've always heard that people are the Air Force's greatest asset. How does getting rid of 4,000 servicemembers demonstrate this?

"We have to keep in mind the situation that got us here - in recent years we over assessed new officers. Now, accepting that, we have to look at what the best thing is for the institution as well as for the individuals in those year groups. It would be far more detrimental, in fact it would be tragic in many regards, if we didn't do anything now and the year groups stayed as they are through the major promotion board. People are our greatest asset - this FSB process does demonstrate that the alternatives to the FSB are even more painful to those officers."

8. We have a lot of star performers in our officer corps, but we have some who have not yet figured out how to perform to the best of their abilities. How is the board looking at records going to know that they are letting a star get away?

"The panel members within the Force Shaping Board will be looking for the "Whole Person" concept in all the records they review. In my experience from watching how promotion boards work, this Force Shaping Board will have the same approach. The officer's record should speak for itself. So everything that is in your records should accurately represent you. I expect the top performers will be the ones retained. Of course officers meeting the board should accomplish a records review with AFPC to ensure their records are accurate and complete."

9. Why, if released is there still a commitment in the Inactive Ready Reserve for prior servicemembers?

"The IRR has always existed by law. It is one more avenue for our nation to secure previously trained personnel should an emergency come up."

10. Some fields are getting hit very hard, what can you tell the servicemembers to calm their nerves a little bit?

"Know that the Air Force immensely cares about this situation and the FSB. The force shaping processes we are implementing, the ADSC waivers and alternative career paths that are being provided and the manner in which we're educating the officers meeting the board and their leadership should help increase the number of voluntary separations thus reducing the number of involuntary separations the FSB will generate. Leadership at all levels is engaged to help officers explore the options before them and make good personal and professional decisions regarding their career paths."

Have more questions? Contact the Force Shaping Team at afpc.dpprf@randolph.af.mil.

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