|Ryan Addresses F-22, Retention Issues During Ramstein Visit |
Ryan Addresses F-22, Retention Issues During Ramstein Visit
By Master Sgt. Joe Bela, United States Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs.
Ramstein Air Base, Germany -- April 30, 2001 (AFPN) -- The Air Force Chief of Staff addressed several issues affecting the Air Force's future during his visit here April 24-26.
Gen. Michael Ryan, who traveled here to attend the Allied Air Forces North Chiefs of Air Staff Conference, discussed the latest on the F-22 Raptor and Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, personnel retention and quality of life programs, and progression of the air expeditionary force.
Production of the F-22, currently the service's number one acquisition priority, together with the new Joint Strike Fighter, would give the Air Force ultimate control of the aerospace environment, Ryan said.
"The F-22 has performed marvelously," he said. "It continues to do everything that we expect it to do. We've had no technical surprises. In fact, it performed even better than the baseline requirements."
A decision for low-rate production of the F-22 is expected to arrive on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's desk sometime this summer.
The F-15 Eagle, currently used by the Air Force to maintain air superiority in combat, has an average age of 17-1/2 years. "And by the time we get our first F-22 wing fully operational, the F-15 will be pushing 25," Ryan said.
"The F-15 has gotten a little old for our frontline kick-down-the-door kinds of capability," he said. "The F-22 is ready, and that's why we need it."
A similar situation makes the new Joint Strike Fighter the replacement plane for an aging F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt fleet.
"The Joint Strike Fighter is destined to take on the job of both planes," Ryan said.
Both the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter, which remain funded, are needed to keep the Air Force formidable, he said.
Addressing the issue of recruiting and retention, Ryan said there is a common misconception that Air Force recruiting numbers are down.
"First of all, our recruiting numbers are very, very good," he said. "We only missed our recruiting (goal) once, and that was two years ago, and that's because we set the bar higher than we had the year before. In fact, the year we missed our recruiting goal, we recruited more people than we had the two previous years. We set the bar high and then failed to place the resources against it."
"We're able to recruit the numbers that we need today," he said. "So recruiting is not a huge issue. We're getting some wonderfully qualified people into the U.S. Air Force."
The issue, said Ryan, "quite honestly, is retention."
"By the time our airmen finish their first tour, they are well trained," he said. "We want to keep them for a second term and indeed, a third term. We've focused much of our effort in keeping these quality people. They are essential to the operation of this Air Force. Over the past three years, with the help of the administration and Congress, the Air Force has made progress in terms of increased pay, and improvements to the health care and retirement systems."
Although the service has gone far to improve quality of life and people programs, the undertaking will continue, Ryand said.
"We've looked at housing allowance and quality of life initiatives across the board," he said. "It's important that we continue to work toward equitable pay. We're a technical force and to compete with industry, we need to pay our people a reasonable wage for what they bring to our Air Force.
"Our emphasis is on people, and that makes all quality of life issues, from childcare to military family housing, important," he said.
Transitioning into an air expeditionary force is another reason Ryan feels the Air Force is on track, balancing the needs of military members and their families with mission requirements.
"We've been able to bring the ops tempo down over the past year and a half," Ryan said. "Part of this is due to world affairs; part of it is due to a conscious effort to include more people into the deployments we do have."
"The AEF schedule has done what we wanted it to do," he said. "It isn't perfect, but it has put some predictability into the lives of our folks. People know when they'll be home so they can continue their education, or perhaps celebrate a birthday, an anniversary or a holiday with family and friends."
"We truly are a 'people first' Air Force. Indeed, many of our initiatives are aimed at the family, but AEF also allows us to do what is basic to our Air Force, and that is to deploy. That's what we're all about," he said. "We will continue to work and refine procedures as we go through the second cycle of our AEF phases. It is our rhythm, and we'll try and keep in it."