The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Air Force chief of staff visits Cannon

 


USAF photo: Staff Sgt. Heather R. Redman Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz meets Airman First Class Michael Gurski, center, and shakes hands with Staff Sgt. Betsy Ulyak, both from the 27th Special Operations Force Support Squadron, during lunch at the dining facility Jan. 26. Gen. Schwartz had lunch with numerous airmen from around Cannon.

The Air Force chief of staff visited Jan. 26 to see how the base is transitioning to its new special operations mission and to meet the airmen making that change happen.

Gen. Norton Schwartz toured the base and addressed a crowded hangar to give his perspective on the state of the Air Force and to address issues that included housing and other Year of the Air Force Family areas of interest.

“We know the dorms and family housing here are nearly saturated and will reach that level in not too many months,” the Air Force’s top uniformed officer said to airmen in an All Call. “Your leadership is aware of this and has got our attention at the highest level and we are working it.”

Airman and Family Housing is one of the pillars of the service’s efforts to concentrate on quality of life and quality of service issues during the on-going Year of the Air Force Family initiative, he said.

“It’s important to the Air Force because at the highest level we know if the military members aren’t being adequately taken care of, the mission is affected,” he said.

Health and wellness is another is another key area, he said, for lots of reasons.

First, he noted, fitness is an important part of health and maintaining the right image.

“We need to send the right message to the American people, how we look and act,” Schwartz said “If they lose confidence in their Air Force, where do they turn?”

Schwartz added that maintaining fitness is important to the well being of airmen, and significant from an overall budget perspective. In 1990, health care cost was 4 percent of the DoD budget, but now health care is up to 8 percent. At the rate it is going, he said, health care could be 12 percent of the Air Force’s budget in 2015.

“We need to do our part to keep costs down,” he said. “The less healthy we are leads to more money being allocated to cover these rising health care costs.”

That can mean less money for other areas, including other support areas the Year of the Air Force Family is focusing on: Airman and Family Support; and Education, Development and Employment.

The general and his wife, Suzie, had a chance to see how Cannon was fairing in these areas by meeting with community leaders upon their arrival, and visiting support facilities on the base such as the new dining facility and Airman Development Center. A windshield tour of ongoing and planned construction sites showed them the progress and challenges for the new wing.

The general was impressed with his first visit to Cannon and the sense of community being built along with the new wing.

“It’s clear a lot of care and planning has gone into the standup of this wing,” said the general, “and it has been great to see the highly professional and meaningful work already accomplished here as a result.”

 
 

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