Metro-East News

Roger That: Staff shortages could mean it’s time to send green troops overseas

As the overstretched and undermanned Air Force struggles to overcome its shortage of experienced aircraft maintainers, Air Mobility Command, based at Scott Air Force Base, thinks it may have found a way to make do, according to Air Force Times.

During a media roundtable at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium, AMC commander Gen. Carlton Everhart said AMC is rethinking who it sends out to bases in the Middle East. AMC is now required to send experienced maintainers — such as crew chiefs with 5- and 7-level skill ratings — overseas to bases overseen by U.S. Central Command.

But Everhart said that soon could change. AMC is considering deploying more 3-level maintainers and pairing them up with more experienced maintainers there.

“We're taking a look at, who do we deploy out in the desert,” Everhart said. “There's always a requirement in deployment to have very highly skilled folks out there. What if I happen to have a highly skilled person with someone who needs training and pair them out in the desert?”

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Air Force Times is also reporting that VA Office of Inspector General has started publishing its findings of investigations launched two years ago into charges that VA medical facilities adjusted patient appointment schedules to meet department standards.

Now the conclusions in at least two of 77 completed investigations have prompted the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and several senators to question the VA watchdog agency's independence, calling for a review of what they say is the IG's "failure to respond to the issues raised."

The OIG released 15 reports on scheduling problems at VA hospitals and clinics in Florida, Iowa and Minnesota on Monday, following complaints from members of Congress and the media that the office was sitting on the investigations, which were completed in 2014.

The reports found procedural aberrations at nine of the 15 facilities investigated, but the VA inspector general noted that in most cases, patient care was unaffected and managers did not direct employees to manipulate the wait times.

VA officials said Monday that the remainder of the 77 completed investigations will show that the IG found no scheduling irregularities in 25 investigations and found intentional misconduct in 18 cases.

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The U.S. Army's elite Delta Force operations to target, capture or kill top ISIS operatives have begun in Iraq, after several weeks of covert preparation, an administration official with direct knowledge of the force's activities told CNN.

The official said the group has spent the last several weeks preparing, including setting up safe houses, establishing informant networks and coordinating operations with Iraqi and Peshmerga units. It's the same strategy that Special Operations forces have used in previous deployments to combat zones.

    Several Pentagon and military officials declined to discuss specifics of the so-called Expeditionary Targeting Force with CNN.

    But Defense Secretary Ash Carter seemed to confirm in comments made at the Pentagon on Monday that the Special Operations forces had begun missions.

    "The only thing I'll say is the (Expeditionary Targeting Force) is in position, it is having an effect and operating, and I expect it to be a very effective part of our acceleration campaign," he said during a press conference.

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    U.S. Air Force combat units dropped bombs from the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter for the first time, the service announced, according to the website MilitaryBuzz.com.

    Pilots flying the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp. dropped the laser-guided GBU-12 Paveway bombs made by Lockheed and Raytheon Co. last week at a training range at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, according to a press release from the Air Force.

    “This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment,” Lt. Col. George Watkins, the 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said in the release.

    The Air Force variant of the plane, known as the F-35A and designed to takeoff from and land on conventional runways, has dropped the munitions from the aircraft during previous tests. But the exercise at Hill involving the 388th and 419th fighter wings marked the first time actual combat units carried out the task, according to the service.

    Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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