Metro-East News

Roger That: Air Force faces big shortage of crew chiefs and maintainers

The entire Air Force is facing serious shortages of crew chiefs and flightline avionics airmen — not just the 7-level craftsmen, but also 5-level journeymen — and the undermanning is adding to the Air Force’s ongoing readiness problem, the Air Force Times is reporting.

“Given the demands that we have today ... [undermanning] becomes problematic because we’re asking our maintainers to do more with less,” Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the maintenance division for the Air Force’s Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection Directorate, said in an Oct. 15 interview.

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Weeks after the Obama administration canceled a failed Pentagon program to train and arm Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State, American officials announced a new effort to equip ground forces in Syria to fight the jihadists, according to the New York Times.

But 10 days of interviews and front-line visits across northern Syria with many of the forces in the alliance, called the Syrian Democratic Forces, made clear that so far it exists in name only, and that the political and logistical challenges it faces are daunting.

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The Washington Post is reporting that “boots on the ground” in Syria, combat in Iraq, and an expanding campaign against the Islamic State have thrust the issue of passing a congressional authorization for such military ventures back into the spotlight,

But renewed interest in light of those new developments may still not be enough to spur Congress to take action.

In recent weeks, congressional frustration has been rising with how the Obama administration has been handling the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Several Democrats are adding their voices to a growing chorus of critics, pointing to Russia’s increasing influence in Syria and the United States’ largely ineffectual efforts to train and equip moderate rebel forces.

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The Veterans Affairs Department will meet veterans’ health care needs through closer coordination with outside hospitals, clinics and doctors, the department says in a plan its sending to Congress on Sunday, according to the website Federal News Radio.

It is an admission that VA will never be able to meet all of veterans’ health care demands on its own. Rather, the department will focus on specialized care related to veterans’ service that other facilities cannot replicate. It may stop providing services commonly found in the health care industry.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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