19th Air Force leaders visit CAFB

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Tuesday afternoon, Major Gen. Irving Halter, commander of the 19th Air Force, arrived at CAFB. He traveled from 19th Air Force Headquarters, Randolph AFB Texas, General Halter was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Judy Halter, the 19th Air Force Command Chief, Chief Master Sergeant Robert Tappana, and his aide, Major Timothy Reutiman. Upon their arrival in a C-12 Huron, these 19th AF leaders were greeted by Colonel Dave Gerber, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, and started an eventful visit that lasted through Thursday.
This was General Halter's first visit to CAFB and during this time he visited many of the squadrons and base facilities. He also conducted two Commander's Calls for base personnel in which he took questions on current issues affecting the USAF.
General Halter and his team spent some time off base as well. Tuesday night, they visited Snowdoun, a historic home owned by Mr. Steven Imes family, where they were welcomed by local community leaders. The visit to downtown Columbus included to a tour of Temple Heights, another historic home.
Wednesday evening, General and Mrs. Halter were given a boat tour of the Tombigbee River by the Columbus Marina owner and CAFB wingman, Chuck Bigelow. Upon their return, they were joined by all of the CAFB group commanders for a dinner at the Gerber family's home.
Chief Tappana attended many of the events with General Halter, but had a slightly different schedule. He spent his time with the 14th FTW Command Chief, Chief Master Sergeant Ronald Bowlan, touring the base facilities and visiting with base personnel. He also attended a few different dining events with some of the NCOs and SNCOs at CAFB. These events allowed many senior enlisted personnel to discuss current issues with the 19th AF Command Chief.
During his visit, General Halter's discussions included what his command does and how they impact the mission of the USAF. On more one occasion during his visit, he spoke of "two concurrent responsibilities: fight the current fight and prepare for the next one." He commented that one is not more important than the other and that 19th AF is contributing to both of these responsibilities through "preparing people to deploy" and by "preparing them for future challenges." General Halter said that for both of those reasons we are building a force that will "carry us through the war on terrorism and through the long-term."
Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, CAFB's primary mission, is a large part of 19th Air Force's mission. One of the many changes occurring in USAF is a change in SUPT. General Halter discussed a new syllabus that 19th AF and Air Education and Training Command is developing which is intended to improve SUPT. Upon entry to pilot training, students will spend more time in the T-6. "The T-6 is cheaper to operate and because it is more capable in some regimes than the T-37," General Halter said. "The T-6 will allow more training in advance skills than the T-37 requiring less time in the T-38 or T-1." General Halter considers this to be advantageous because the T-38 and T-1 are more expensive to fly.
While the Air Force is looking everywhere for cost savings, General Halter was insistent that the quality of the flight training program will not be affected by cost-cutting. "Although we weren't trying to save money, it will actually save money in flying hours ... which is a good thing," he stated. General Halter said this new syllabus will likely begin in October.
When asked what are the 19th AF challenges, General Halter responded, "I'm concerned, as we do those things which are necessary in supporting the current fight, we don't do something that puts a unit at home at risk of not being able to do their mission." His discussion on this topic focused on personnel issues due to force reductions. He said this issue is one of his biggest concerns. "I'm not telling you any of those things are going to break us, we just have to be very careful here that we don't do something that we didn't intend to do and put to much strain on our force."
Despite the personnel and cost-cutting issues, General Halter had good things to say about what AETC provides. He stated that, for the military personnel in AETC, the quality of life is good. "Even with all those things I've talked about, it's a pretty stable place to be," he said. In comparison to other commands, he said that work in AETC allows a predictable work schedule. "People ought to enjoy this time with their families," General Halter said.
General Halter was also pleased with what he saw at CAFB. "I'm very impressed with the BLAZE Team," he said. Toward the end of his visit, General spoke of his high regard for CAFB personnel, "Times are tough, but they are getting the job done and I couldn't be more proud."