AF and civic leaders work to build stronger bases

WASHINGTON — Air Force civic leaders from across the U.S. traveled to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, to engage directly with Air Force senior leaders on the service’s top installation and communities priorities at the Air Force Civic Leader Conference held Feb. 13-15, 2018.

“The most important thing for us when we look at bases is the mission — we are values-driven and mission-focused,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “What matters most to our Airmen in regards to their communities is quality of life, which includes world-class schools and reciprocity for licensure.”

Civic leaders agreed, working together is paramount in building a strong partnership, in order to increase mission efficiency and mitigate the challenges Airmen face outside of the workplace.

“Mutually beneficial collaboration to support key community and base initiatives utilizes combined resources more efficiently and produces meaningful results in a much timelier manner,” said Brad Hegeman, chief of staff of the Air Force civic leader from Arkansas.

In most cases, the quality of life standards for Airmen and their dependents have a direct impact on the mission, including one of the Air Force’s biggest challenges, the pilot shortage.

According to the U.S. Air Force Optimize Aircrew Retention Crowdsourcing Pulse #1 survey, 62 percent of 2,620 Airmen agreed improved school opportunities for children around military facilities could have a positive impact on aircrew retention.

“Airmen care a lot about the education their children receive,” said Wilson. “The base commander and the local school district must work together to meet the needs of their community and become a base of choice for Airmen because they’ve heard that the schools are fantastic.”

Along with the quality of the schools available to Airmen and their families, following a permanent change of station, spouses face difficulties with the length of time it takes to transfer professional licensures and certifications between states and the out-of-pocket expenses those transfers accumulate.

“This is an important issue for the Air Force and the Department of Labor is also addressing it because it inhibits the mobility of the workforce as a whole,” said Wilson. “Reciprocity matters a lot to the families of our Airmen.”

Wilson encouraged the civic leaders to focus on strengthening relationships at the local level and help new wing commanders.

“We are trying to delegate a lot more authority and give the local commanders a lot more latitude to get after their mission,” she said. “You can expect from us a lot more local control, a lot more authority at the wing commander level without having to deal with too much bureaucracy above them so they can get after the problems that are at the highest priority in their communities.”

The multi-day conference also provided a strategic perspective to the civic leaders, something they said will help to build better support for Airmen within their sphere of influence.

“This allows for much broader mission support… a better understanding of unique needs for Air Force families within the community builds that strong relationship which allows everyone to work as partners in solving shared problems,” said Murray Viser, Headquarters Air Force civic leader from Louisiana.