Wright Patt C-17 flies N.Y. rescue team to Puerto Rico after hurricane

Published: Monday, September 11, 2017 @ 9:40 AM

            Food, water and cots are loaded on an Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Sept. 11, 2017 for shipment to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The aid was sent to help survivors of Hurricane Irma. CONTRIBUTED
Food, water and cots are loaded on an Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Sept. 11, 2017 for shipment to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The aid was sent to help survivors of Hurricane Irma. CONTRIBUTED

A Wright-Patterson based Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III was set to haul food, water and cots and other supplies to Florida today after Hurricane Irma hit the peninsula hard this weekend.

The Wright-Patt crew was set to stop at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., to pick up additional cargo before heading to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., said Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a 445th Airlift Wing spokeswoman.

Late Friday, a C-17 flew a New York Task Force 1 rescue team to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma unleashed a swath of destruction on the Caribbean island.

The Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing picked up 75 members of the task force, four rescue dogs and 60,000 pounds of equipment at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and flew the first responders and their cargo to San Juan, P.R., Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a unit spokeswoman, said Monday.

RELATED: Wright-Patt air crews deliver 35 tons to hurricane-ravaged Texas

Last Thursday, a C-17 from Wright-Patterson hauled a HH-60 search and rescue helicopter from Florida to Georgia as powerful Hurricane Irma churned toward the state.

RELATED: Jets fly over Miami Valley as they escape Hurricane Irma

The hurricane struck the Florida Keys and the eye wall made landfall in southwest Florida this weekend after a mandatory evacuation order for millions of South Florida residents that caused widespread damage and left much of the state without power.

Dozens of military planes, including Florida Air National Guard F-15 fighters jets, and Navy P-8 and P-3 anti-submarine hunting planes from Jacksonville, Fla., and C-17s from Charleston, S.C., flew to Wright-Patterson last week to escape the ravages of the massive storm.

Additionally, 97 Wright-Patterson Medical Center personnel and 50 Dayton VA Medical Center personnel were ordered on standby for possible deployment if needed, authorities said.

The Ohio Army National Guard planned to send two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 14 soldiers from North Canton to South Carolina to prepare on Monday to aid relief efforts in Florida, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher.

Air Force Marathon chooses drone as ‘official’ aircraft of 2018 races

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 10:13 AM

            The MQ-9 Reaper drone will be the “official” aircraft of the 2018 Air Force Marathon. CONTRIBUTED
The MQ-9 Reaper drone will be the “official” aircraft of the 2018 Air Force Marathon. CONTRIBUTED

The MQ-9 Reaper drone has been chosen as the “official” aircraft of the 2018 Air Force Marathon, a series of races that draw thousands of runners across the nation and other countries to the Miami Valley.

This marks the second time the Air Force has chosen an unmanned aerial vehicle as the aircraft for the contest.

RELATED: Hypersonic research could lead to future spy drone

In 2009, the MQ-4 Global Hawk, a reconnaissance drone, was the first, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force marathon has drawn more than 15,000 runners in recent years, who compete in full- and half-marathons, and a 10K race at Wright-Patterson and a 5K race at Wright State University.

RELATED; Drones, lasers, hypersonic weapons will be ‘game-changers’

The Reaper will be featured on runners’ medals and T-shirts. The marathon is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2018.

Congress passes stopgap spending bill to avert weekend shutdown

Published: Thursday, December 07, 2017 @ 6:16 PM

            The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Aviation Trail Visitors Center in Dayton. A partial government shutdown in 2013 temporarily closed the historic sites. LISA POWELL / STAFF FILE PHOTO
            Lisa Powell
The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Aviation Trail Visitors Center in Dayton. A partial government shutdown in 2013 temporarily closed the historic sites. LISA POWELL / STAFF FILE PHOTO(Lisa Powell)

The House and Senate on Thursday passed a stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and buy time for challenging talks on a wide range of unfinished business on Capitol Hill.

The measure passed on a vote of 235-193 in the House and 81-14 in the Senate, and would keep the government running through Dec. 22. The resolution was set to be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Without the stopgap, funding would have run out and a partial federal government shutdown would have ensued.

Cassie B. Barlow witnessed the consequences of a 16-day partial federal government shutdown in October 2013 when about 13,000 civil service employees at Ohio’s largest single-site employer were sent home on furlough at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“The biggest impact is a loss of trust on behalf of the employees and that’s something that is difficult to recover from,” the retired Air Force colonel and former base commander said in an interview Thursday with this news outlet. “These are people who have made a commitment to serve for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”

The ripple effect of the shutdown stopped work in many cases throughout the base, which has major headquarters for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Research Laboratory that support the entire Air Force.

“It really is just devastating and it’s very disruptive to getting work done,” she said.

RELATED: Base workers ‘concerned;’ top senator says government won’t shut down

Congressional votes

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he “reluctantly” voted yes for the stop gap spending measure to extend funding for two weeks “on the condition that leadership is making representation that they’re close to a budget deal,” he said in an interview Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, also said he would vote for the stop gap legislation.

“Really my inclination is to vote no except that we can’t really shut the government down,” said Davidson, who expressed frustration with Senate inaction on House spending legislation.

Still, both representatives expected the temporary funding measure to pass Congress.

Turner was “not very confident” a final budget deal would be reached Dec. 22, citing uncertainty of what the Senate would do.

“If this become politics as usual, we could have a shut down,” he said.

Davidson said he was “not incredibly optimistic” a deal would be reached in two weeks with the Senate.

RELATED: Report: Air Force has microwave energy weapon that can zap NK’s missiles

‘Unfortunate mood’

Troy Tingey, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 214, which represents thousands of Wright-Patterson employees, said members were concerned but expected a shutdown would be avoided.

Still, the years-long cycle of facing potential government shutdowns has taken a toll and led some to consider more stable employment outside of civil service, he said.

“The unfortunate mood is they’ve almost become immune to it so one of these days when it actually hits this time of the year, it will have a great impact on them,” he said.

The last time a shutdown hit four years ago, the Dayton region suffered economically, said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs.

“The effect of a government shutdown would be acute in the Dayton region because our economy is so dependent on the federal government but there would also be detrimental ripples throughout the country and it would cost our nation’s economy significantly,” he said.

RELATED: General: Spending needed if you want to hire; fly B-52s until 2040

S&P Global reported a shutdown could cost the U.S. economy $6.5 billion a week or 0.2 percent of gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Two key federal agencies in the region will not be impacted, however. The Dayton VA Medical Center and its four community clinics will stay open because the agency is funded through a two-year budget, spokesman Ted Froats said.

The U.S. Post Office, which is self-funded, will continue to deliver mail, post offices will remain open and passport applications processed, according to spokesman David G. Van Allen, an agency spokesman. Mail for federal agencies, however, will be held at processing plants until government operations resume, he said in an email.

If a shutdown had occurred, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force would close Saturday and employees would be sent home until funding was restored, said spokesman Rob Bardua. The world’s largest military aviation museum attracts about a million visitors a year.

National Park Service sites in the Dayton region temporarily closed during the last shutdown.

What will happen?

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Security in Washington, D.C., has watched Washington politics for years. He said reaching a final budget deal by Dec. 22 was “a flip of the coin.”

RELATED: Air Force facing growing crisis in pilot shortage

“The main obstacles to reaching a budget deal and getting defense appropriations passed have little to do with defense,” he said in an email. “Sixty votes are needed in the Senate to reach a budget deal, which means it has to have some level of bipartisan support. The key budget issue that needs to be resolved is the level of non-defense spending, and both Democrats and Republicans are adding non-budget issues to the negotiations as well, like immigration, health care, and the border wall.”

If a shutdown happened at the Miami Valley base, where more than 27,000 employees work, military personnel and civilian employees in key jobs would report to duty, but would not be paid until the government shutdown is over, Defense Department officials said.

Among civil service workers, the determination of who would stay home and who would report to work would depend on if the activity was tax-funded or self-funded or whether an employee’s job is deemed essential for safety, the protection of human life or national security, Pentagon officials said.

Those exempted in the last shutdown at Wright-Patterson, for example, included firefighters, police officers and health care workers.

RELATED: Lack of defense budget raising concerns at Wright-Patterson

A shutdown this time would have similar results to one four years ago, said Capt. Hope Cronin, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

But even with another long-term continuing resolution, the Air Force and the Defense Department would be unable to start new programs, officials said. For the Air Force, it could reduce flying hours and postpone construction of facilities, among other impacts, she said.

“In essence, it just continues fiscal uncertainty,” Cronin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

5 easy ways to support local military families during holiday season

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 10:47 AM


This holiday season, there are a few simple ways to give back to military families and veterans who are in need of support in their communities.

In Dayton, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has more 7,000 active duty military service members and 13,000 civilians working on base. There are also approximately 90,000 retirees within a 100-mile radius who also use services at the base, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Check out five ways you can give back to military families across the country:

1. Volunteer or give to an organization focused on PTSD

One in three veterans suffer from PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Kettering-based American Legion Post 598 supports the Battle Buddy Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization founded by veterans with the mission of assisting veterans who need psychiatric and mobility service dogs. The nonprofit hosts an annual golf tournament to raise awareness and also accepts monetary donations online.

2. Volunteer at a local VA Medical Center

The Dayton VA Medical Center accepts monetary and in-kind donations for patient needs, but volunteers can also work with veterans who are being cared for at the center. The medical center is looking for volunteer drivers who help transport veterans to and from scheduled medical appointments. Other volunteer opportunities include: assisting in Hospice with Celebration of Life meals; assisting at the front desk and welcoming visitors; driving gold carts to transport veterans to and from parking lots; escorting veterans in wheelchairs; and serving in the National Cemetery Honor Guard Squad. Learn more about volunteering at the VA here.

» RELATED: Local Navy sailor honored: ‘Doing the right thing pays off’

3. Check in with the Air Force Aid Society

The Air Force Aid Society is the official charity organization of the U.S. Air Force. While donors can give monetary donations monthly or even one time, AFAS also gives spearheads several programs that give back to families who deal with the challenges of active duty Air Force Life. Community programs include: Bundles for Babies, Child Care Programs, Spouse Employment Program and Care Care Because We Care. Learn more about the Air Force Aid Society.

4. Research local nonprofits

Several national and local nonprofits can help you make an impact on veteran and military families right in your community. An Oakwood-based nonprofit The Soldiers Surgeon Inc. is aiming to cover the expense of veterans’ medical costs for certain surgical procedures. Learn more about the nonprofit.

» RELATED: 7 major data hacks that happened in 2017

5. Help a homeless veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs is working to prevent and end veteran homelessness across the U.S. You can your local homeless coordinator here or learn more about how you can help here. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 39,471 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


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Air Force continues to address shortage of aircraft maintainers

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 9:31 AM

            Airmen repair a fuel boost pump on a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 cargo jet at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in this 2013 file photo. The Air Force has said it has reduced a shortage of aircraft maintainers. LISA POWELL/STAFF
Airmen repair a fuel boost pump on a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 cargo jet at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in this 2013 file photo. The Air Force has said it has reduced a shortage of aircraft maintainers. LISA POWELL/STAFF

A massive shortfall of Air Force aircraft maintainers that caused “severe turbulence” in manning has dropped from thousands to hundreds, the service branch said.

The Air Force has a shortage of about 400 maintainers on active duty, a significant drop from a gap of 3,400 a year ago and 4,000 in 2015, a spokeswoman said.

Despite the gains, getting seasoned maintainers to repair the oldest fleet in the Air Force’s history will take years to reach, according to the service branch.

“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take five to seven years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura M. McAndrews said in an email. ”We are continuously evaluating our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

RELATED: Air Force facing growing crisis in pilot shortage

A shortage of maintainers isn’t the only problem the Air Force has confronted on the flight line.

Fewer aviators — particularly fighter pilots — are staying on the job in the Air Force, a problem that has grown over the past year on active duty, in the reserve and in the Air National Guard. The Air Force was about 2,000 pilots short — including 1,300 fighter pilots — as of the most recent figures.

Over the past decade, sequestration – or automatic defense spending reductions under the Budget Control Act of 2011 – budget constraints and management of the force have eroded the number of maintainers in ranks, according to McAndrews.

Filling the gap

The Air Force ramped up production by training an additional 2,000 maintainers on active duty in fiscal year 2017, and will train an additional 1,000 in fiscal year 2018. To fill jobs, the military branch offered re-enlistment bonuses, extended the time senior airmen could stay in uniform and allowed prior maintainers to rejoin, McAndrews said.

The Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has a shortage of more than 20 aircraft maintainers, said Lt. Col. Jay Smeltzer, the wing’s maintenance group deputy commander.

Full time maintainer jobs in the wing are known as air reserve technicians who have a dual role as both a civilian employee during the week and a reservist during drill weekends, training or deployments. The airlift wing flies nine C-17 Globemaster III transport jets to support operations around the world. Vacancies are in key jobs such as aircraft mechanics to electricians, he said.

“I think over the years people have sought other employment that does not have the reserve side to the job,” he said. “It’s more attractive to them to go to another industry or another government agency without worrying about the military requirements.”

RELATED: Foreign military sales more than triple at Wright Patt agency

Smeltzer said the wing doesn’t have the same gap among traditional reservists, and full-time job vacancies haven’t deterred flight operations.

“It hasn’t crippled us by any means, but it has created pinch points,” he said.

Overall, as the Air Force fleet of planes has shrunk, the number of active-duty aircraft maintainers has fallen 17 percent since 2004, data shows.

Nearly 66,700 maintainers are in the Air Force on active duty today.

Toll on readiness

Richard Aboulafia, a senior aerospace consultant with the Virginia-based Teal Group, said the Air Force maintainer shortfall has had an impact servicewide.

“It has really taken a toll in readiness,” he said.

For nearly three decades, the Air Force has flown continuous combat operations in the Middle East while the average aircraft age has reached 27 years old, military leaders have said.

“What’s depressing is that I just don’t think this is going to get any better any time soon because the country is prioritizing tax cuts over defense and yet isn’t changing its tempo of operations,” Aboulafia said.

The senior analyst said the Air Force faced three choices: Reduce operations, spend more on defense, or watch readiness suffer.

The country has watched readiness erode “for quite a few years now,” he said.

RELATED: General: Spending needed if you want to hire; fly B-52 until 2040

The Air Force has had to choose between restoring aging planes – such as major structural work on F-15 Eagle fighters — or upgrading a plane’s combat capability, he added.

“You’ve got to keep them flying before you can add new technologies and features that would make them more effective,” he said.