Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
Proposed Air Force structure changes resulting from the Department of Defense fiscal 2015 budget could result in big changes to reserve units at Tinker Air Force Base.
If enacted into law, the DOD budget request would direct an increase of four KC-135R Stratotankers to the 507th Air Refueling Wing and inactivate the 513th Air Control Group, whose personnel fly and maintain the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System.
“These force structure changes are significant, but they ensure the Air Force Reserve remains an integrated, flexible and combat-ready force,” said Brig. Gen. William “Buck” Waldrop, director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for Air Force Reserve Command.
The increase of four KC-135R’s would bring the 507th ARW from eight to 12 total aircraft. The 507th went from 12 aircraft down to eight last year as a result of force structure changes from 2013 Department of Defense strategic guidance.
The 513th ACG is the only reserve unit that performs the AWACS mission. They are currently partnered with the active duty 552nd Air Control Wing in a classic association construct. The active duty unit maintains control of the E-3 Sentry aircraft while reservists from the 513th ACG provide qualified crews to fly with them. The inactivation of the 513th means the AWACS mission will continue with the active duty force solely flying all the required missions.
“The vast majority of our people serve locally on a part-time basis, and force structure changes pose significant challenges for reservists,” said Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, commander of Air Force Reserve Command. “I will ensure that reserve leaders at every level are doing everything they can to help reservists through the transition.”
The overall proposed authorized end strength for the Air Force Reserve in fiscal year 2015 is expected to decrease 4.7 percent from 70,400 to 67,100 authorized reservists. Specific manning number changes for reserve units at Tinker are not yet known.
“We understand the Air Force has to make tough choices in an extremely difficult fiscal environment. The inactivation of the 513th is part of these tough choices,” said Col. David Robertson, 513th Air Control Group commander. “We currently have 345 citizen Airman in our unit who support and operate the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System. These citizen airmen have extended America’s global power worldwide for over 15 years. Most of them work and live in the local Oklahoma communities and have for most of their career. Until the proposal is enacted into law, we will continue to perform our command and control mission while staying committed and focused on the future of our Airmen.”
Some of those members in the 513th ACG could transfer to other reserve units if the 513th inactivates. Air Force Reserve Command will operate a clearinghouse to assist affected reservists in finding new assignments.
The annual fiscal 2013 estimated economic impact summary showed the total economic impact of the 513th ACG to Oklahoma was $32,901,438. That figure included an annual payroll of $17.8 million, local annual expenditures at $1.1 million and dollar value of jobs created at about $14 million. However, the possible loss of that economic impact to Oklahoma may be lessened by increases in other units or missions.
507th ARW staff agencies and 507th Mission Support Group administratively support reservists in the 513th ACG. That role is expected to continue regardless of other force structure changes.
While the 513th ACG may shut down operations, the adjustment of the reserve mission at Tinker means more KC-135Rs in the 507th ARW and leadership is embracing this move.
The 507th ARW is currently authorized 1,010 positions and with the increase of four aircraft they anticipate total authorizations for the unit may increase although the exact numbers are not yet known. The fiscal 2013 estimated economic impact summary showed the total economic impact of the 507th ARW to Oklahoma to be $110 million.