ACC commander engages Airmen, discusses priorities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Greg Nash
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander, visited the men and women of Moody Air Force Base, Oct. 17-18, 2017.

While gaining an in-depth exposure of the installation’s unique assets, Holmes used this visit as an opportunity to explain to Airmen their role in the fight and how it contributes to his priorities.

“We’re expected to lead the Air Force by controlling and exploiting the air,” said Holmes. “I’d like every Airman at Moody (AFB) to think about how they fit into that. Whether you’re flying or fixing something, providing intelligence for it, making ID cards or drawing blood in the hospital, everything you do every day is designed to help us control and exploit the air.”

According to Holmes, ensuring mission success doesn’t come without its challenges – and he emphasized the importance of improving squadrons, developing leaders who can win in joint-war fights and bringing the future faster.

The Air Force has operated in an uncontested environment against violent extremists with minimal resistance from near-peer competitors during the past quarter century. However, the luxury of waiting for revolutionary warfare changes for another 20-plus years is no longer an option, Holmes said.

Now, adversaries work daily to counter the military’s strengths and exploit weaknesses that require faster action. Holmes said that this is an Air Force-wide challenge that is being addressed by leadership at all levels.

Holmes spoke with 75th and 81st Fighter Squadron pilots and looked to them for their expertise on preparing for modern warfare in today’s fight during a tour of the flight line. He also addressed flying and retention programs, expressing his commitment to keeping skilled warriors.

“We are approaching this with a full court press, we want to convince people to stay,” said Holmes. “A young captain told me that there is a value proposition to why people serve in the Air Force. They join the Air Force to do amazing things, with amazing people and they probably joined to operate cool machines, in order to change the world. So if we are going to retain people we have to maintain all these legs of it and make it a place where Airmen can still do that.”

In a smaller Air Force that is forced to do more with less, Holmes discussed how these challenges not only affect the pilots, but also the maintenance practices.

Looking to better manage the balance of people and equipment, Holmes listened as the maintenance and rescue community briefed about “people and iron,” which was centered on ways to accomplish tackling manning constraints and keeping serviceable aircraft within the 23rd Wing.

“We are able to get the job done, but it’s a downward spiral if we don’t have a (healthy balance) of aircraft availability and people,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Dunston, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “We have good manning, but there is an experience (divergence) that we have to address as well. We cannot replace experience with inexperience in our career field.”

Holmes stated that highly trained and experienced warriors are key. Although the maintenance manning in ACC is at 98 percent, Holmes said there are still challenges to training the large number of Airmen newly out of technical training but it is still a plus to have the Airmen in place.

Holmes anticipates there to be a training backlog that will be remedied in the near future so that maintenance units can be better prepared to meet the demands and high-operations tempo.

Strengthening the processes of air and ground integration was an additional aspect Holmes wanted to observe.

He spent the bulk of day two with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing, seeing firsthand how the Spartan Warriors are doing just that. Using a hands-on approach, they challenged Holmes to scope out a simulated enemy sniper before witnessing a capabilities demonstration with Airmen advancing in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle amid purple smoke to assault the opposition and secure Moody AFB’s military operations in an urban terrain village.

After witnessing Moody AFB’s close-air support, combat rescue, base defense, and warrior rehabilitation operations, Holmes said it was clear both the 23rd Wing and 93rd AGOW were surpassing expectations.

“I was impressed to be around young leaders who relished the opportunity to go to places they’ve never been and take on tasks they’ve never been trained to do and figuring out solutions for them,” said Holmes. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for junior leaders to do around the Air Force and it’s really fun to see people here are being brought up to do that.”