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ACC commander discusses promotion changes, budget impacts with Tinker Airmen

Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, prepares to speak to members of the 552nd Air Control Wing during an All Call at the Team Tinker auditorium June 18. The general talked about changes in the Air Force promotion process, force shaping initiatives and the future of the Air Force as it copes with sequestration. (Air Force photo by Darren D. Heusel)

Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, prepares to speak to members of the 552nd Air Control Wing during an All Call at the Team Tinker auditorium June 18. The general talked about changes in the Air Force promotion process, force shaping initiatives and the future of the Air Force as it copes with sequestration. (Air Force photo by Darren D. Heusel)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Changes to the service's promotion system will ultimately lead to a better Air Force, Air Combat Command's Gen. Mike Hostage told members of the 552nd Air Control Wing during a June 17 visit here.

During an all call at the base auditorium, the ACC Commander told Airmen the new evaluation criteria will place more emphasis on job performance and strengthen the Air Force's "meritocracy" of advancement.

"Long story short, this is a performance-based organization," the general said. "We're trying to drive ourselves back to looking at performance as a measure of merit -- not square filling, not points, but merit. Ultimately we will be a better force for it."

A major change coming to the system is the introduction of promotion boards for master sergeants. Enlisted promotion boards are currently only used for choosing senior master sergeants and chief master sergeants.

On the officer side, promotion consideration will factor in a variety of constraints, such as family obligations, which could prevent officers below the rank of colonel from pursuing graduate degrees. It was for that reason the Air Force recently announced advanced degrees would be masked from officer promotion boards until the O-6 board.

"We're not going to penalize a person who was too busy to get a master's degree," he said, though noting the Air Force continues to value higher education.

General Hostage also talked about the effects of ongoing budget cuts, particularly on Tinker Airmen.

The general noted that in order to meet $1.2 trillion in defense cuts across 10 years, force structure changes would be needed, including reduction of 25,000 Airmen across the Air Force and divesture of some aircraft. Part of that plan includes the proposed deactivation of seven Airborne Warning and Control System planes at Tinker.

General Hostage said the deactivation is part of an overall effort to balance the demands of modernization and investment needed to ensure the force remains the world's best.
The general also told Airmen personnel reductions should reach their target by next summer. By then the Air Force should stand at about 309,000 members - a size that can be maintained in the midst of continuing cuts.

"The good news is once we're at that size, the trauma is over," General Hostage said.
"That's why the decision was 'let's do it all at once'. It'll hurt, but when it's done, we can get it behind us and move on."

A command pilot with more than 4,000 hours, General Hostage served as commander of the 552nd ACW from August 2002 to March 2004.

"It's good to be back at the 5-5-2 at Tinker," the general told the audience. "I feel like I've come back home."

During his two day visit he toured ACC and AFMC units to see the breadth of Team Tinker missions.

Air Combat Command oversees all non-nuclear combat forces to ensure they are trained, equipped and organized to meet the needs of operational commanders. Based at Langley Air Force Base, Va., the command encompasses 22 wings, 14 bases and personnel operating from over 300 locations worldwide and flying more than 1,000 aircraft.