Joint Base Charleston


Interesting times

By Col. Darren Hartford | 437th Airlift Wing commander | December 30, 2013

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- "There is a Chinese curse which says, 'May he live in interesting times.' Like it or not, we live in interesting times ..."

Robert Kennedy

Happy New Year! I am not sure where 2013 went, but 2014 is fully upon us and there is no turning back. 2013 was a year of unique challenges and 2014 is shaping up to be more of the same.

When I look back at 2013, I think of the challenges we faced locally with implementing the Budget Control Act (better known as sequestration), that impacted the funding available to support Airmen. It led to the implementation of civilian furloughs. We teamed together to determine how to mitigate the impact both professionally and personally as we worked through the options that took us from 22 days unpaid time off, to the final six days unpaid time off for a majority of the civilian workforce. Let's not forget topping it off with the government shutdown to start fiscal year 2014, which led to more unpaid time off for some of our civilian employees.

I also remember that while we were dealing with the sequestration challenge, we also hosted multiple base-wide events to include visits by the Air Mobility Command commander, U.S. Transportation Command commander, and the Secretary of Defense.

The 315th and 437th AWs received the last three Air Force procured C-17s and the entire airbase hosted a two-day, final delivery celebration where we hosted multiple current and retired general officers and more than 2,000 guests to celebrate 20 years of the U.S. Air Force operating the C-17. We followed that up this past month by celebrating the first C-17 to reach 20,000 flight hours.

During the course of last year, the mission did not stop as we faced those "opportunities to excel" as one of my previous boss' used to call them. We continued our on-going support to Operation Enduring Freedom by deploying Airmen around the globe. The aircraft of the 315th and 437th flew more than 45,600 flying hours on 13,200 sorties. By my rough math, that means that every hour of every day last year, at least five Charleston tails were flying.

In 2013, as a team we mourned the deaths of several Team Charleston members. We also said goodbye to dear friends who retired or left via normal Air Force Permanent Change of Station cycles. But we also celebrated numerous births, weddings and gained new friends as a result of the same Air Force PCS cycles as well.

Finally, the year ended on a high note as Team Charleston successfully began to implement the Commanders Inspection Program and all three wings earned "effective" ratings from our respective MAJCOM Inspector Generals.

It seemed like every time I turned around last year, we had a new hurdle or major event. I am almost tired just remembering it all. But I also know that no one person did it by himself. For every challenge we faced in 2013, we came together to plan, and took action to arrive at a solution as a team.

As we look to 2014, it is obvious the challenges will keep on coming. I know there will be multiple changes of command and an unknown number of high level visitors that will offer us more opportunities to excel. During the past couple of weeks, we have heard about the new manpower Force Management Programs that are coming down the pike. While the overall manpower reduction is roughly 7.5 percent of current active-duty Airmen, the number of Airmen who are receiving e-mails telling them they may be eligible for one of the programs is significantly higher. These programs will change how the Air Force operates.

These changes will impact almost every Airman, either directly or indirectly. For some, it will require some soul searching to decide if you want to remain on active duty. For others, there will be the uncertainty of not knowing if you will be allowed to continue to serve. There will also be those who are not directly impacted by one of the programs who will be wondering what happens after the reductions occur and what the impact will be to their job and to the service. The only thing I know is that by this time next year (2015), we should know most of the answers for this round of the program.

I offer that we will get through these new challenges the same way we did in 2013 ... together as a team ... as an Air Force Family. Thank you for all you do. I look forward to serving with you in the New Year!

Staying Connected