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Focus and Uncertainty

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- On a cold morning in the winter of 2012, we received the news that the A-10s where going to be removed from the 127th Wing. From that day forward we have been on a rollercoaster ride like no other I have seen in my 32 years at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Sequestration, no budget and Continuing Resolutions (CR) for the past few years has made performing our wing business very difficult. With all this uncertainty over the past few years I thought I would go to the 127th Wing leadership to get their views on what direction of the 127th Wing is headed.

On Nov. 6, 2013, I had the privilege to ask Col. Sheridan, 127th Vice Wing Commander, a few questions regarding his thoughts on aircraft, focus and future of the 127th Wing.

Question # 1
Chief Barriger:
With all the uncertainty over the past 2 years; A-10s going away, then staying and then going away...furloughs, ORI/no ORI, Continuing Resolutions (CR) followed by LCAP, I mean UCI, no I meant UEI! All of this is very troubling. Are you concerned about the 127th Wing Airmen's attitudes and morale in regards to climate surveys and town hall meetings for our upcoming inspection? And yes, by the way, January 15th (day after the out brief) is the next cliff for the next CR?

Col. Sheridan: I know that all of our personnel have a sense of resiliency to them but I also realize that stability is something that is important to all of us. Regardless of the name of the inspection, we are still going to be inspected on our process and procedures throughout the wing. Knowing the 127th Wing though, the professionalism and dedication we should be able to pull through without to many issues. Yes, I am concerned about the morale with the continuing change. I would like to get to a spot where change stops, but I know it won't for a while. The only silver lining in change is it will take a long time before something final takes place. We should see it at least 12 to 36 months away before any of us have to make difficult decisions for our families and our organizations. My personal feeling is that a CR will not affect us personally, although a shutdown would. I also feel that a shutdown will not happen again, it is just too devastating to the government and our civilian leadership has learned its painful lesson.

Question # 2
Barriger:
I have been in the Michigan ANG for over 32years and I have never seen so much uncertainty; as a chief of maintenance I try to give direction to my Airmen. It seems like the direction of the wing, Air National Guard and Air Force is in a constant state of flux and always changing. I understand that many decisions are way above Wing level, but what advice can you give supervisors and commanders on how to keep Airmen focused on flying and fixing aircraft, to include getting inspection ready?

Sheridan: Continue emphasizing the mission at hand and that we are still a nation at war. Regardless of current state, we could be called at a moment's notice and we must be ready to go. Personally, I think the organization is ready to deploy the entire wing to a combat zone. I have never seen a unit so ready. All of the Groups within the Wing have consummate professionals and realize the importance of their jobs. Encourage the commanders to keep telling their personnel that they are proud of them and depend on them for our country's defense, because at the end of the day, no one else has stepped up to do the job except our folks here at Selfridge and the rest of the Department of Defense.

Question # 3
Barriger:
With all the talk from higher ranking Air Force officials (Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, Chief of Staff Gen Mark Welsh and Chief of US Air Combat Command Gen Mike Hostage) about the retirement of the entire A-10 fleet, most articles have not mentioned follow-on missions. Sunday, at the Chiefs Council, Brig Gen Isabelle said he and Maj Gen Vadnais were headed to Washington D.C. to talk about the future of the A-10 and follow-on missions. Have you heard anything regarding that trip to D.C.? Also, do you think we will be getting a new mission and if so, what might that be?

Sheridan: Yes, our going in position is to maintain the A-10 with all of its capabilities. If that aircraft is not an aircraft to stay then a follow on to a F-16C block 50 or a F-15 E mission would be something we would strive for. Thirdly, if those 2 options are not available we would position ourselves for another squadron of AMC aircraft. At the end of the day, the most important thing is being in a viable, relevant and sustainable mission that preserves the number of personnel in the 127th Wing.

Question # 4
Barriger:
By all reports the KC-135 is the most secure aircraft in the inventory until the KC-46 is bedded down at their new bases. Has Wing or state headquarters raised their hand to request the additional KC-135s from the bases that are getting the new aircraft to fill the gap in flying missions while the other bases are going through the conversion process? I would assume other KC-135 units would have to fulfill the missions until the new units get their initial operating capability. This could also be the right time for the base to become solely an Air Mobility Command Wing.

Sheridan: Yes, this is something we have considered. I believe if you look at Question #3, this should answer this question.

After my interview with Col. Sheridan, I feel the 127th Wing leadership has put a lot of thought to where the wing may be headed; be it maintaining the A-10s and KC135s we currently have or different aircraft (F-16 or F-15) in the future. We could become an AMC base and exclusively fly "heavies" but if a change were to occur it could be years down the road. I also agree with Colonel Sheridan that we have some of the most talented, brightest and professional Airmen in the Air National Guard and United States Air Force. We are ready for any new challenges that may get thrown at us. After our conversation, I feel the best way forward is to take care of the things we can control such as passing inspections, taking care of our personal readiness and keeping focused on the task at hand no matter what your job or AFSCs may be.

I would like to thank Col. Sheridan for the opportunity to interview him and to thank all the Wing leadership for informing the workforce when changes arise and keeping actively engaged with the State and Guard Bureau to ensure a strong future for the 127th Wing. To quote my group commander, "straight ahead" and Happy Holidays to all the 127th Wing members and their families.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marked its 96th year of continuous military air operations in 2013.