SecAF visits Altus AFB, discusses priorities, future

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By Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos, 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs / Published April 25, 2014


Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks during an all call April 23, 2014, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. The visit marked James’ first trip to Altus AFB as the Secretary of the Air Force. The secretary met with civic leaders, spoke to base personnel about the future of the Air Force and learned more about cost-saving innovations initiated at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Levin Boland)


Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks during an all call, April 23, 2014, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. James addressed various topics such as sequestration, force structure and Air Force core values. James also spoke about the fiscal environment and what it means for service members before taking questions from the audience. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jesse Lopez)


Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James is greeted by Col. Bill Spangenthal during a base visit, April 23, 2014, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. James conducted a base visit with Altus AFB Airmen to get a firsthand view of the base’s mission and initiatives. Spangenthal is the 97th Mobility Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jesse Lopez)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFNS) --

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited here April 23, to get a firsthand look at the wing's mission, visit with Airmen and civic leaders, and learn the unique capabilities, key initiatives and attributes of Altus AFB.

Her visit consisted of one-on-one discussions during a breakfast with Airmen, a wing mission brief, an assault strip rubber removal demonstration, and an Airmen's call open to all base personnel.

During the Airmen's call, James announced a new mission for Altus AFB.

"The studies are done, the evaluation is complete and the verdict is in," James said. "I am very pleased and honored to tell you that Altus will be the formal training unit for the KC-46A Pegasus."

In addition to the announcement, James also touched on her priorities of taking care of people, balancing today's readiness for tomorrow and making every dollar count.

"We have got to make sure that our Air Force today has the tools, flying hours, training and all the other pieces of readiness required so they can step up to the plate tonight if necessary and do whatever missions leadership may ask of us," James said. "We have to invest now in the technologies, platforms, techniques and procedures that will carry our Air Force forward. All of this is costly, it means we have to free up money from one area and apply it to others.

"I really want to congratulate and thank all of you at your level because I have heard a lot of stories this morning about how everybody here at Altus (AFB) is making every dollar count and really thinking innovatively about how to do things differently," she said.

James recognized a few of the base's innovators during the Airman's call: Tech. Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, the 97th Operations Support Squadron assistant non-commissioned officer in charge of wing current operations, and William Coleman, a 97th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy repair shop pavements and equipment engineer foreman.

"Sergeant Bachleda told me about how he redesigned a cushion to be used for boom operators so that there would be less strain on the back and neck," James said. "This is a great innovation that is going to help Airmen save medical costs down the line and help in the overall training mission.

"Bill Coleman has come up with an alternative way to take the rubber off the runway," James said. "This service used to be contracted out; we use to have to pay more money to remove the rubber at the appropriate times and now, thanks to Bill and his team, it's about a hundred thousand dollars in savings per application four times a year."

James covered other topics including the challenges the Air Force faces such as force shaping, budget constraints and core values.

"Integrity is not only a personal responsibility, but it's very much a team sport," James said. "If you see something in your environment that you know is not right, your integrity requires you to do something about it. The wingman culture is fabulous but it never means taking care of people that are doing wrong."

James concluded with a description of a smaller, capable force in the future.

"Tomorrows Air Force will be smaller but it will be agile; it will be credible; and we will be an affordable total force team," she said. "We're going to do our job for the country, fulfill our defense strategy -- we're going to be ready and we're going to be modern."

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