Warriors persevere, deliver assured airpower

  • Published
  • By Col. Randall Cason
  • 301st Fighter Wing vice commander

Men and Women of the 301st Fighter Wing,

These are unprecedented times, and I couldn’t be more proud of how you and your families have calmly, bravely, and rationally approached this immense challenge. Globalization and technology have grown economies, enabled intercontinental travel in hours, and allowed access to information and knowledge on an extraordinary scale. That’s great for humanity. But, there’s a dark side.  The pace and scope of the spread of the novel coronavirus of 2019 is unlike anything before, and it has pushed our force to adapt to a rapidly evolving pandemic.

No one really knows how bad this pandemic may be. We hope and maneuver for a quick ending with low infection rates but hope alone is not a strategy. We must plan then act. As Airmen, planning is woven into our DNA on day one, and we have repeatedly proven that we do it well.  We continue to have a mission: Train and Deploy Combat Ready Airmen, in spite of the corona virus. We will do that too. Our enemies are not resting, in fact they’re emboldened. To some we appear weakened, though we are not…we do not rest. Our purpose is to provide combat airpower for America, who counts on us, always. I know we are and will remain ready to meet America’s high expectations during this pandemic and for future generations to come.

How many Airmen will catch the virus? How long will this season last? I contend no one knows for sure, though there are interesting forecasts evolving daily. As planners and realists, we understand the worst case must be considered, and we must insulate ourselves as best as possible. A pragmatic plan starts with good assumptions. For planning, we assume all Airmen will become sick at one point, and this season will last until July or August as President Donald Trump predicted. Our aim is that even at the height, at least half of our folks will be healthy because our approach will be sound and durable.

To that end, the most important capabilities you can provide America during this time is availability, resiliency, and hope. Your priority, along with my priority, is your health. Smartly adhere to the Public Health and CDC recommendations that you’ve no doubt heard countless times. Take care of your bodies. Sleep more than normal. Consume nutritious food and beverages. Take it easy at home and conserve your strength. Do not unnecessarily leave your home.  Set the conditions for your immune system to be the strongest it’s ever been through razor-sharp focus on your mental, physical, spiritual and, (virtual) social pillars.

Major General Brian Borgen, our 10th Air Force commander, laid out three clear priorities:  protect our people, preserve our mission, and stop the spread of this virus.  Nesting within those priorities, considering mission, and using sound planning assumptions, we’ve developed an “Assured Airpower” strategy. It’s simple. Send all full-timers home who can telework (civilian) or telecommute (military) the near entirety of their job to assist flattening the curve.  For the rest of the full-time force, split into 14-day rotations cycling between sequestration and on-base work. For Traditional Reservists, split the month in half. One half drill in the first half of the month attending the A-UTA, while the other half participates in the second half of the month and the B-UTA. We are not canceling UTAs. UTA reschedule is permitted, but UTA telecommute is encouraged. TRs do not come to the base unless it’s their half of the month. For imminent deployers, and those who directly support the training and requirements of deployers, you will come to the base as required.

Do not feel compelled to come to the base. Your first inclination should be to “tele-perform” your duties. Be a part of the solution for population density reduction. Your commander or supervisor will direct you if you are required to be on base. Do not feel compelled to host or participate in face to face meetings. Sometimes, it cannot be avoided, but teleconferences and virtual meetings are encouraged.

As you are probably well aware by now, DoD has implemented a Stop Movement Directive for TDYs, PCS, and movements outside the local  area, defined in our Wing as an area within 100 miles from the base. The directive applies to members in military status and to civilians on DoD funded travel. The directive presently runs through 11 May. Travel from beyond 100 miles requires approval from the 10th AF Commander. Deployers and those who directly support the training and requirements of deployers are exempted from the stop movement.  If you require an exemption, you probably won’t get it unless there is a clear need for enabling our day to day mission.  If you live outside 100 miles, we expect you to telecommute your duties.

The 14-day sequester and rotation strategy that has been shared with your commanders and supervisors lowers population density on-base enabling counter-virus tactics. It creates a ready-in-waiting force that backs up folks on the line…next Airman up…sequestered Airmen are always on call. If an Airman on the line gets sick, a sequestered Airmen will pull forward to replace them. 14-day shifts align with Public Health guidelines, so that if you start 14-off and get sick, by the time it’s your turn again the disease should have run its course and you can return to work without missing a beat. If you get sick on the line, you immediately fall into the 14-off, get well, and return with the next scheduled shift. This flexible strategy enables resilience within guidelines so that we can simultaneously protect you and ensure consistent Airpower capability. It is important to note that teleworkers, telecommuters, sequesterers, and line workers are all mission-essential within this strategy because all must be available at any time as required to be called to the base. In short, this strategy includes a measure that places our Airmen in the safest work environment, which is their home, while accomplishing our mission.

For those reporting to their duty station, some countermeasures we have implemented include cleaning and social distancing in workstations, along with limited points of entry to simplify cleaning. I understand that we have encountered some limitations, to include lack of PPE, however; I am working hard to rectify that issue to ensure our people are safe where they work. Additionally, we’ve implemented a considerable measure through reduced population density.

I appreciate there are limitations for those who telework or telecommute; all I can ask is that you do your best. The unfortunate reality that your commanders and supervisors patiently understand is the AF’s bandwidth is limited. It will be inefficient and slower than normal, which I understand. I encourage you to have patience with one another. Keep your eye on the bigger picture, which is your good health enabling availability, hence capability. It will be interesting over the next few months to see one of the core characteristics of Airmen shine through; innovation. Our service was built on it from inception. It’s who we are as a force. I predict you will find new and more effective ways to communicate and produce. Those ways may become our new techniques and procedures long after the virus is gone.  Great, we need it…it’s about time.

One piece of innovation I encourage you to take advantage of now is the USAF Connect App. It's free in your app store for both Android and IPhone users.  Add 301st Fighter Wing as one of your favorites, 10th Air Force too.  Turn on notifications.  Our public affairs team has done an outstanding job developing the app towards its full potential.  All the latest NAF and wing guidance on COVID-19 is loaded in the app.  It includes contact info for teleworking shops, availability of on-base facilities, what to do and who to call if you’re sick, how to determine your risk levels of exposure, latest news around the Command, NAF, and wing…it’s all there.  Plus, it has closed-access group texting capability with no group size limits.

No doubt, this time is challenging. Uncertainty abounds. But, one thing is certain. Through “Assured Airpower,” the 301st Fighter Wing is postured to provide ready combat airpower to America even at the height of the corona virus pandemic. You are Airmen. You are tough, resilient, highly capable, and rare. You are persistent and determined with laser focus to succeed. And so are your families!  America needs us now more than ever, and we will deliver.

Be safe. Stay healthy. Be good Wingmen. Control your actions today, prepare for tomorrow, but do not worry over that which we cannot control. Care for each other. Choose to keep an exceptional attitude. We are in this together. We got this!

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