SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO --
Terms such as continuing resolution, budget shortfall, doing more with less and uncertainty are almost becoming passé for military members now.
As the Department of Defense operates under a continuing resolution and budget uncertainty looms, Reserve commanders are faced with making hard decisions on how to continue to focus on their mission.
In October 2015, Col. Gregory Gilmour, commander of the 315th Airlift Wing, addressed the wing and announced that the November Unit Training Assembly would be rescheduled to later in the year. “Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough in the budget to conduct our UTA and continue flying,” said Gilmour. “Right now, it is more of a shell game,” he said. “We know the money is coming, we just don’t know when, so we have to prioritize.”
Priority is being placed on real world training missions, like a weekend-long Aeromedical Evacuation off-station training mission. “This mission is very important,” said Col. Sunny Gates, the director of operations for the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. “We have four different evaluations going on right now,” she said. These missions allow our folks to go out into the real world and do their job,” she explained. “It is particularly important because we have a lot of new flyers and they need repetitive clinical training at altitude where they can experience all of the complications that can happen in flight.”
Col. Caroline Evernham, the 315th Operations Group commander, is also feeling the stress of having to juggle actual mission requirements with essential ground training that needs to be accomplished. “It is very difficult. The wing has had to reschedule our November drill in order to meet flying training requirements which means that physicals, PT tests, training CBTs and other training will be delayed,” she said.
But, many units are taking advantage of the rescheduled drill by combining it with an existing scheduled UTA. According to Gates, the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron will conduct a “super UTA” in February. “We will end up conducting a more robust block training in February to make up for the training that we missed in November,” she said.
But some commanders are concerned about missing the valuable training during a budget crunch. “This whole scenario results in stressed personnel who are struggling to meet training requirements and overall this results in a minimally trained force that is not focused on the mission,” said Evernham. “Even if we maintain aircrew currencies, which are basic requirements, our crew members are not as proficient overall as they should be, and that leads to potential safety issues,” she said. “It comes down to unquantifiable problems that are difficult to predict. These are the things that keep commanders awake at night.”
Units throughout the wing will have the ability to make up their missed November drill, depending on need, after a budget is passed and signed by the President.