ACC command chief visits Tinker

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
The command chief master sergeant of the Air Combat Command conducted informal, wide-ranging discussions with enlisted personnel, Airmen and NCOs alike, during a recent two-day visit to Tinker AFB.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. "Rick" Parsons spent much of his time here fielding questions about federal budget cuts and how they'll affect the Air Force and its enlisted personnel. However, he addressed other topics, too, such as how to be successful, establishing priorities "with boundaries," and the looming shift in the Defense Department's primary focus after 70 years: from Europe to the Pacific.

In the months and years ahead, Air Force leaders "are going to have to make some tough decisions they won't enjoy," the chief emphasized.

Already the Defense Department has been directed to reduce its expenditures by $487 billion over a 10-year period. "We'll still have funds to do some things, but we're going to have to start cutting back," he advised.

If sequestration is fully implemented next year, the DOD will be compelled to slash another $600 billion or so, he related. Should that happen, "We're really going to start feeling the pain and making significant cuts in training and rethinking how we go to war."
The chief mentioned "priorities with boundaries," and explained, "We have cut back to the point that we can't do everything, so we have to prioritize and do what is most important with the resources we have.."

For example, he said, the "norm" in the Air Force is to work 45 hours a week, and on occasion, "certainly when we're going to war or when readiness exercises are being conducted," enlisted personnel are expected to "flex to 50 or 55 hours." However, the chief pointed out, a heightened Ops Tempo cannot be maintained indefinitely without adverse repercussions on Airmen and their families, which requires leaders to make tough choices about how much they can accomplish.

The Air Force is addressing the reduction of 10,000 personnel, the chief said. That reduction may be achieved, at least in part, by a date-of-separation rollback, he predicted. A DOS rollback, in which personnel who have indicated they do not intend to re-enlist will be discharged six months early, "appears to be imminent," Chief Parsons said.

Air Force leaders are following budget and personnel cuts closely in an effort to keep senior defense officials and members of Congress informed about impacts on combat capability, readiness and morale, the chief said. He encouraged Airmen of all ranks to be part of that process by making sure decision makers have an accurate picture of the way cuts are affecting them professionally and personally. "We shouldn't sugar-coat the current situation to anyone," he said.

Although combat operations in Iraq have ended, and President Obama has announced that the U.S. will cease operations in Afghanistan in 2014, the operations tempo in the Air Force "will slow down, but not significantly," the chief said. The U.S. will continue to have a presence in Afghanistan, even after the combat forces are removed, he said, and the focus of Defense Department priorities will shift from Europe to Asia -- the so-called "pivot to the Pacific.".

Just because the U.S. has been successful in war in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 12 years "doesn't mean we're ready to engage in major combat operations in a new area," Chief Parsons said. Many military personnel have served multiple deployments, and U.S. ground and air military equipment is aged and worn, noted the chief, who was wounded in Iraq in 2004.

"Readiness is the most important thing you can do for your people," he advised. "Make sure you're ready to fight, and return home to your family once we send you downrange."
The chief lamented the record number of suicides in the Air Force this year (92), as well as high divorce rates and sexual assault reports throughout the military. In addition, in referring to a recent health and wellness inspections , the chief asserted, "If it doesn't enhance the mission, it shouldn't be in the workplace."

If you want to be successful, the chief offered a quote from Vince Lombardi (1) master the fundamentals, (2) instill discipline, and (3) do everything in love.

Chief Parsons has served in the Air Force for 27 years. Previously he was the USAF Central Command chief master sergeant, and he became the ACC command chief in November 2011. In that position he is the enlisted adviser to the commander and staff for the enlisted force stationed at 27 wings, 17 bases and at more than 200 operating locations around the world.

ACC, headquartered at Langley AFB, Va., was created 20 years ago with consolidation of the Strategic Air Command and the Tactical Air Command. ACC is the primary provider of air combat forces to America's warfighting commanders.