Forward, Ready, Now: Stepping Up Despite Sequestration (Part III)

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Katrina Cheesman
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Our Airmen are innovative and mission-oriented...and despite the hard-hitting sequestration and budget cuts over the last two years, they still complete the mission through creative and effective ways. It isn't ideal, they said, but when America asks them to sacrifice and step up to the plate, that's just what they do.

This is part three of a multipart series that highlights how our Airmen have dealt with budget cut, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Waste not, want not

There's a special place on base that turns our waste into safe, clean water: the water and fuel systems maintenance flight of the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron.

With no end in sight to rising energy costs and a shrinking budget, the water and fuel systems Airmen knew they had to make some changes. After all, eliminating waste is their primary mission.

So, they replaced six of their behemoth, out-of-date waste water pumps that support the flying mission here, with newer and energy-saving models. Spend money to save money, you ask?

"The replacement of these pumps not only makes sense in our fiscally constrained times, by saving over $27,000 annually in inspection costs, but is the green choice," said Master Sgt. Mike Murieen, water and fuels systems maintenance section chief, who hails from Whitewater, Mo. "These models have a much lower energy footprint than the outdated ones."

On top of that, they've also reduced the number of total organic compound monitoring stations, which gives them a snapshot of wastewater quality here. That's a fancy way of saying they've saved more than $11,000 annually and eliminated redundant tests and chemical costs, while still meeting German standards.

"This puts us at an over $40,000 annual savings for Spangdahlem from my section," Murieen said. "These initiatives were brought on by sequestration, and the combined ingenuity of our civilian and active-duty Airmen to do more with less."

Military Intelligence is ... Intelligent

It's a classic tale of sequestration: no money for TDYs, which means no training, which means potentially not being qualified for a job that supports the mission. Most of the stories aren't too happy, and definitely something that parents would avoid reading at bedtime.

But for the 52nd Operations Support Squadron's intelligence flight, there's a surprise fairytale ending. Spoiler alert: it doesn't involve riding off into the sunset on a white horse.

Because the intelligence career field is so broad, members have to get specialized training on the F-16 Fighting Falcon before being mission capable for the 480th Fighter Squadron. In the past, it was a warm TDY to Luke AFB, Ariz., for five weeks.

But when four brand new airmen first class and a first lieutenant rolled into the shop, that training class--necessary for mission capability--was cancelled.

Capt. Peter Mattes, intelligence flight chief of operations, and Capt. Heath Hunter, intelligence weapons officer, knew that without this training, the new Airmen couldn't deploy or support the 480th FS. So they started a process that no one else had tried, according to Maj. Erick Olsen, senior intelligence officer, a Springville, Utah native: teach the F-16 Intelligence Formal Training Unit in-house.

The entire process took six months of paperwork, phone calls and the stamps of approval from two major commands to complete, but in the end, they were able to get their Airmen combat mission ready.

"We took that course material and added some specific academics, tailoring it for our mission at Spangdahlem," Hunter, a native of Milo, Iowa, said. "Capt. Mattes and I led a team of intelligence instructors and pilots to provide academics, as well as mission execution exercises in order to qualify nine Airmen as combat mission ready."

With the help of their intelligence team, the two captains saved more than $45,000 in TDY costs, accomplishing something no one had ever done before, and likely won't do it again, according to Hunter. Now that's smart thinking.


When a U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft engine is needed downrange, who do you call? The 52nd Logistic Readiness Squadron's Deployment and Distribution Flight, that's who.

And there are a lot of engine runs to do, because the 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron is the centralized repair facility for F-16 engines. They bring in broken assets from all over Europe and from the Central Command area of responsibility, repair them and return them to the fight, according to Maj. Jason Moore of Doylestown, Pa., 52nd CMS commander.

Before that happens, that engine needs to make one very important road trip from Spangdahlem to Ramstein Air Base for shipment back to the AOR, and it can't do it without this team of Airmen. Before sequestration, DDF contracted out the transport of the $4.3 million engine. When there was no money for a contract, the mission still needed to get done.

So, they just did it themselves. Of course, with such an expensive piece of equipment, they had to meet certain requirements when loading and transporting the engine. After a month of checking and rechecking the list, they were ready.

Since sequestration hit, DDF has carefully loaded 34 giant, wrapped engines using their own resources instead of a commercial carrier, saving more than $20,000 of their own budget.

"Getting those engines downrange is directly supporting the mission," said Capt. Chad Herner, DDF commander from Bismark, N.D., standing with a group of his Airmen in the echoing warehouse. To them, it wasn't just packing a critical part carefully and shipping it off somewhere else; it was the difference between mission success and failure.

And while they do what they need to for mission success, it isn't ideal.

"We can do this right now, but with further personnel and budget cuts, what's going to happen? If we keep meeting the mark but stretching ourselves thin in the process, one day we may break," notes Tech. Sgt. Erica Kline, NCO in charge of cargo movement and native of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

Sequestration: The Times, They are A'Changing

When put to the test, the Airmen of Spangdahlem Air Base go above and beyond to support the mission, according to Col. Dave Julazadeh, 52nd Fighter Wing Commander.

"Budget cuts can be painful, but nonetheless, we will continue building partnership capacity with our NATO allies," Julazadeh said. "And we will do everything we can to provide Airmen the training and equipment they need to meet emerging challenges and defend American and allied interests."

Sometimes, there's nothing to do except grit your teeth and try to survive. But other times, it's just a matter of ingenuity, creativity and motivation to reach mission success.

What makes the Air Force a capable and forward-ready force, Julazadeh said, despite the challenges of sequestration, is its capable and innovative Airmen.