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Murray Talks Deployments, Force Shaping

Murray Talks Deployments, Force Shaping

By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Ortiz-Torres, Air University Public Affairs

Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama -- (AFPN) June 24, 2004 -- Combat needs, not current manpower standards, are what Air Force officials are using to determine how many people are filling the ranks, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Gerald Murray said. This, he said, is the first time in Air Force history that combat needs have been the determining factor.

Chief Murray discussed this and other current issues during his visit here for the 10th Annual Worldwide Command Chief Master Sergeants’ conference June 19 to 23.

“We’re engaged in a war that perhaps is not going to end any time soon, so we need to be prepared for that,” Chief Murray said. “We have to focus on training, on our leadership and our efforts of preparing our Airmen mentally, physically and emotionally to deal with the rigors of deployment.”

One hot topic is force shaping which is designed to return the Air Force to its authorized uniformed population by September 2005.

“How do we bring our force structure down by 20,000 people without losing any of our combat capabilities and without forcing out good quality Airmen that want to stay with us?” asked Chief Murray.

“That’s our greatest challenge and clearly concerns our force; however, we will continue to work toward balancing the force,” he said.

Fifteen years ago, the Air Force was 40 percent larger than it is today with about 660,000 active-duty Airmen. Today, the force is just shy of 360,000 active-duty people, yet the service is deploying more than four times more than it did back in 1990 before operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Chief Murray said.

“While we are deploying more, for the first time in history over the last couple of years we have been identifying the requirements of our force based on our combat expeditionary needs, not off manpower standards, on how many people (for example) we would have working here on Maxwell Air Force Base, but truly what we would need for combat,” he said.

Finding ways to reduce the number of critically manned and stressed career fields in the Air Force is also a part of the plan to balance the force. Examples are the noncommissioned officer retraining program, reinstating the career job reservation program and redirecting accessions in basic training.

“These measures are beginning to show a positive effect on increasing balance in our force,” Chief Murray said. “And on top of that, it’s also (Air Force Chief of Staff) General (John P.) Jumper’s commitment to continue in everyway we can to try to get every Airman in our Air Force to be deployable. By increasing our deployment pools, again we minimize the stress on those Airmen in constant demand.”

As the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, he said his most important job is talking with Airmen and listening to what they are saying.

“First of all, today I see great pride in our Airmen in the jobs that they are doing out there,” he said. “In 27 years of the Air Force, I have not seen the Air Force any better than what it is today.

“Our Airmen are certainly letting me know that they are challenged, and they are certainly talking about the (operations) tempo and the increased deployment workload that we’re under,” he said. “There’s a price that we are paying by having so many Airmen deployed. It’s not only how hard they’re working deployed, but how hard they’re also working at home stations by having teams separated.”

One example of concerns being addressed is the recent pull-back of code “C” limitations. A code “C” designation is given to Airmen with certain medical conditions.

“Our Airmen spoke out about that and that’s part of the reason we decided to step back and conduct a thorough analysis of the processes we use to look at those individuals that are not available for deployment due to medical limitations,” he said.

There are currently more than 7,000 Airmen that are not eligible for worldwide deployments, and about 3,600 of those are designated as permanently in that category, Chief Murray said.

“Combat readiness, deployments and deployability is a major concern for us,” Chief Murray said. “We’ll continue to work with the senior leaders of our Air Force, our Air Staff, and (major commands) to balance our force to meet that mission.”

Chief Murray also discussed quality-of-life issues.

“We always have quality of life in our sights because it deals with our pay, our benefits and compensations, our housing, workplace and environments that affect our Airmen and their families,” he said.

People can expect to see many improvements in infrastructure, he said. Officials have invested in renovating or replacing more than 5,000 dormitory rooms and more than 30,000 housing units across the force.

It is clear that the Air Force is going through major changes, and as Chief Murray said, “(Air Force leaders) are leading (Airmen) in a historic and exciting time.” (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).