SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Ninth Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist hosted 20 retired general officers who live in the states where 9th AF bases are located during the 2017 Headquarters 9th AF Senior Leader Forum Sept. 28.
The forum provided a venue for the retired senior leaders to learn about the Air Force’s current events and issues through briefings, dialogue with Airmen during a question and answer panel, and view an Air Force capability demonstration.
“The purpose of this day is to reconnect and re-blue, to show what’s going on in the Air Force and what it’s like to be an Airman,” Zobrist said. “The challenges our Airmen are facing are very real, and you are the ambassadors to the communities.”
After opening remarks, the forum attendees were given an unclassified intelligence briefing covering global threats to the joint force and implications of those threats to the Air Force.
Following the intelligence briefing, Zobrist discussed today’s Air Force, highlighting the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s priorities which were highlighted recently at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference.
He stressed how the consistent theme of Air Force leaders was the “tempo of the force and how it affects readiness and retention.”
Zobrist also spoke to the current state of 9th AF and its mission to organize, train and equip Airmen. He shared the 9th AF’s initiative to become a Joint Task Force-capable headquarters by late 2018.
“We need to have the capability, at an Air Force level, to provide combatant commanders with the core of a JTF, led by an Air Force unit,” Zobrist explained.
In addition to answering questions on the current pilot shortage and maintenance challenges impacting readiness, Zobrist also emphasized 9th AF’s efforts to train Airmen deploying to Combined JTF-Operation Inherent Resolve, support for geographically separated units (GSUs), and resolve 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing issues with manning, training, tempo, and tasking.
Chief Master Sgt. David W. Wade, 9th AF command chief, and Kay Zobrist, the 9th AF commander’s spouse, underlined challenges faced not only by Airmen but by their families as well.
According to Wade, the three biggest issues impacting the Air Force are budget -- citing there were 31 continuing resolutions in the last nine of 10 years -- the operations tempo, and manpower.
“Your Air Force is stretched thin, and that’s going to affect your Airmen and their families,” Wade expressed.
Wade and Mrs. Zobrist emphasized issues Airmen and their families face when assigned to geographically separated units, privatized housing issues, challenges with the current move process, and Exceptional Family Member Program differences among the services.
Following the formal briefings, the attendees had two-way dialogue with enlisted Airmen, officers and spouses during an Airmen/Spouse panel. Finally, the guests viewed a few Air Force capabilities to include new technology and equipment used by Tactical Air Control Party Airmen and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot demonstration.
For retired Brig. Gen. Henry L. Taylor, who served on active duty for 30 years as a maintenance officer, this forum was a chance to gather information he could share in the Charleston area where he routinely engages with the economic development community, chamber members and politicians.
“This is the third [forum] I’ve been to,” Taylor said. “I’ve found they provide an update on the Air Force to engage the civilian communities in which I live. These interactions are needed to get a better understanding. … If we can use these opportunities to express the Air Force priorities; it’s useful to many groups in the community.”
Headquarters 9th Air Force hosts the Senior Leader Forum every two years. The next forum is scheduled for 2019.