by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/16/2012 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The 52nd Fighter Wing commander and staff members from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters hosted a base-wide question and answer forum here Aug. 14 regarding the future of Spangdahlem A-10 Thunderbolt II operations.
More than 200 Airmen attended the event to hear how the Air Force intends to drawdown A-10 operations in Europe while adapting to the service's fiscally constrained environment.
"Our number one priority is taking care of the Airmen and their families," said Col. David Julazadeh, 52nd FW commander. "We still have to accomplish the mission, but in doing so, we're focused on what we can do and how we can help our people."
The USAFE briefers included Col. Scott Shapiro, Chief of Bases and Forces Division; Col. Christopher Sharpe, Director of Manpower, Personnel and Services; and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Dilt, Manpower, Personnel and Services, personnel chief enlisted manager and major command functional manager.
The staff explained how the Defense Department began making plans in March 2012 to adhere to President Barack Obama's budget for fiscal year 2013. The Air Force's affected units in Europe were the 81st Fighter Squadron here; the 4th Air Support Operations Squadron, Wiesbaden; the 7th Weather Squadron, Heidelberg; and the 603rd Air Control Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy.
Shapiro said for the 81st FS, that means inactivation with a tentative date of March 2013. Until then, Spangdahlem's A-10 squadron will maintain appropriate manpower to sustain required capabilities. Wing and USAFE leaders will continually develop combat requirements for the squadron to reflect the reduction in manpower with an aim to be fair and equitable to all affected Airmen.
Inactivating a squadron affects not only the Airmen within the squadron, Shapiro continued. It also affects Airmen who work in agencies that support the squadron. This specific inactivation will impact more than 500 Spangdahlem Airmen, most of whom are in maintenance career fields.
However, Dilt said he and his team were able to mitigate and reduce the manpower change to about 85 Airmen by creatively placing in different units Airmen whose skill sets can be used elsewhere at Spangdahlem. Also, some inbound assignments have been canceled and some Airmen's date of estimated return from overseas have been curtailed.
Dilt briefed the enlisted members in the audience on their permanent change of station benefits and eligibility.
The briefers then opened the forum for questions. Some attendees voiced concerns about moving Airmen from the 81st FS who have a background in A-10s to the 480th Fighter Squadron which operate F-16 Fighting Falcons.
The staff panel assured the crowd that the Air Force will minimize risk and adjust taskings as required.
"The concerns brought up were spot on," Julazadeh said. "Saber Airmen have passion about the mission and want to be successful, and we were able to provide enough information to better prepare them."
Key Air Force leaders are currently developing further guidance regarding the 81st FS inactivation. More information will be available as the tentative inactivation date draws nearer.
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