After two years as the self-described “mayor” of Scott Air Force Base, Col. Kyle J. Kremer is preparing for a new job that will move him into an office on the other side of the base and a whole new set of duties.
Kremer, 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, calls himself the base mayor for good reason. Like mayors elsewhere, he is responsible for making making sure the sprawling community he oversees runs smoothly: that the water is running, the roads are plowed when it snows, the trash is carted off regularly and the crime rate stays low.
Kremer has the added burden, however, of having to answer to a lot of people who outrank him. As the headquarters site for a major inter-service command, the U.S. Transportation Command, and a major Air Force command, the Air Mobility Command, Scott is home to two four-star generals, two three-star generals and dozens of other general officers of lesser rank.
When they pick up the phone to complain about something at Scott, Kremer is the man who gets the call.
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What’s more, the 375th Air Mobility Wing is responsible for ensuring all the commands based there get everything they need to get their enormous jobs done — no small task for an Air Force that has seen its strength sapped by forced personnel reductions and big budget cuts even as its operational tempo has increased because of humanitarian aid missions and the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Kremer said he never uses the word tenant to describe the units headquartered at the base.
“We have mission partners on the base,” he said. “And so that’s why we never use the word tenants for our organizations. Because we believe in the word partnership. We build a team here and work together.”
During a meeting with a News-Democrat reporter in his office at Scott, Kremer emphasized the importance of all the units at Scott working together to get the mission at hand accomplished.
“Together, what we do is we enable rapid mobility,” he said. “So whether it’s Libya, ISIS, Afghanistan, it’s humanitarian relief to Nepal. You name it, we are involved in every single operation that goes on at the Department of Defense, because nothing happens until you get the stuff there, resupply the troops and bring them home. And that happens in the cornfields of Illinois.”
On Monday, Kremer is set to take part in a change of command ceremony at 9 a.m. at the base parade grounds. Kremer will be turning over the reins to Col. Laura L. Lenderman, who’s been designated the next wing commander.
Kremer, meanwhile, will take up a new post: as executive officer to Gen. Darren McDew, the newly confirmed commander of Transcom.
Kremer, 47, has had an eventful tenure as Scott’s base commander. Almost as soon as he stepped into the role, the base suffered severe flooding as result of torrential rainfall. The same crisis happened only two months earlier.
What’s more, Kremer has had to deal with the fall-out from an automatic 10-percent reduction in the Pentagon budget caused by the congressionally-imposed cost-cutting mechanism called sequestration. In October 2013, only three months into Kremer’s tenure, sequestration led to a week of job furloughs for the base’s 3,500 civilian employees. And unless Congress acts before Oct. 1, the start of the 2016 fiscal year, the same threat hangs over Scott.
“If Congress does not take action on that, then we’re forced to make these additional cuts and that could have operational impacts,” Kremer said.
But the base’s mobility mission continues, regardless of the fiscal situation.
“You do it on a day-in, day-out basis,” Kremer said. “But as things like sequestration loom, those have impacts on our ability to do that. It increases the stress on our airmen and their families to perform those missions, and that’s why we need the support of continued funding.”
A highlight of Kremer’s tenure occurred last month, when the communities around Scott were formally presented the Abilene Trophy in recognition of the region that best supports an Air Mobility Command base.
The metro-east won its first Abilene in 2012. To win it twice in three years says something special about the area, according to Kremer.
“That’s a testament to the local community,” Kremer said. “The local mayors around here, the communities, are fabulous. That makes it easy. That makes it easier for us to do our job.”
This unusually high level of community support and collaboration is what sets Scott apart from other air bases, a factor that led Scott to be named the co-winner of the Air Force Times award in 2014 for the best place for an airman to be stationed.
“What is unique about this area is there is not a singular community that is tied to the base,” Kremer said. “So when you go to some communities, the base is the biggest thing in town. They’re very much tied to it. Here is what I find very special: there are so many different communities here and the broader St. Louis, but they all support the base and they work well together to support the base.”
Gerald Daugherty, the mayor of Mascoutah, which neighbors Scott to the east, credited a lot of this success to Kremer, who has kept relations running smoothly between the base and its neighbors through hard work and easy-going demeanor.
Kremer has promoted ideas for a joint land-use study and developing public-private partnerships involving recreational activities with surrounding towns, Daugherty said.
“And even things like sharing sewer services and waste-water plant and stuff like that,” he said. Kremer is “a leader that reaches out to communities, and he betters relationships.”
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.