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Acting Secretary Fanning Visits FS Gabreski ANG

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  • By Eric Durr
  • 106RQW
F.S. GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Westhampton Beach- The civilian head of the Air Force visited Air National Guard members at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, Thursday, as part of a three-base tour of Air Guard facilities.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning spoke to 300 members of the 106th Rescue Wing, fielded questions from Airmen, and flew in an HH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopter from the 101st Rescue Squadron while pararescue jumpers from the 102nd 103rd Air Rescue Squadron demonstrated an ocean rescue.
The goal of the visit was to gain first-hand knowledge about Air Guard missions, hear what the Airmen are thinking about, and explain what is going on in Washington in regards to the budget cuts that have resulted from sequestration, said Maj. Toni Whaley, a spokeswoman for Fanning.
In his meeting with the Air Guard members in the base's main hanger, Fanning outlined the budget issues facing the Air Force. In his meeting with the Air Guard members in the base's main hanger, Fanning outlined the budget issues facing the Air Force. He also urged all Air Guard members to take sexual assault and sexual harassment issues very seriously... He also urged all Air Guard members to take the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment issues very seriously.

The federal budget sequester, which forced the Department of Defense to cut $85 billion in spending, has forced the Air Force to make some hard budget decisions, Fanning said. This has included grounding aircraft not slated for immediate missions and deployments and a furlough--forcing employees to take an unpaid day off weekly for 11 weeks -- of Air National Guard dual-status technicians who are both Guard members and civilian employees.
The end result will be a decline in readiness, Fanning said. The U.S. Air Force is still the best Air Force in the world, but readiness will suffer, he told the Guardsmen. Airmen may not be as well trained as they could be, he explained.
His hope is that there will be no furloughs in the 2014 fiscal year which starts in October, and Congress will act to allow the Air Force and other services to make smarter spending reductions.
"Our goal for you is to try to get us back to some stability, some new normal, as soon as possible so we can keep faith with you and you can go back to doing the mission," Fanning said.
In fielding questions from Airmen, Fanning said he did not expect any effort to start reducing the number of stateside Air Force bases until 2017 at the earliest.
Fanning also said that Air Force leadership is still trying to decide the future of the air rescue role that the 106th Rescue Wing executes. The future is being studied and the decision will be based on how the job can be done best, Fanning added.
But what is certain, is that the Air Guard will continue to play a critical role in the success of the Total Air Force.
"I have never seen Air Force four stars (generals) on active duty so seriously engaged in how we can leverage the Guard and Reserve," Fanning said. "The Guard and Reserve proved themselves in the last 13 years."
Following his remarks, Fanning took off in an HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter to watch para-rescue jumpers plunge out of an HCH-130 Combat King 1 search and rescue aircraft and conduct a simulated water rescue of a downed pilot. The demonstration also included an air-to-air refueling mission in which the helicopters drew fuel from the HCH-130.
The goal, said 106th Rescue Wing Commander Col. Tom Owens, was to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the 106th Airmen.
Fanning's remarks went a long way towards answering many of the questions the members of the 106th Rescue Wing have been asking themselves, said Tech Sgt. Keith Goss.
"A lot of important questions got answered," said Goss, a Manorville resident. "It seems like a lot of the questions we have been speculating on were actually brought out and answered."
Senior Master Sgt. Denise O'Donnell, a St. James resident, said she was really pleased that the Air Force's top leader took the time to visit Gabreski.
"He showed his personal side to the Air Force here," O'Donnell said. "He's concerned about everybody, not just the active Air Force, which is good for the Guard."