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What's wrong with the Air Force?


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On 5/15/2020 at 6:56 PM, joe1234 said:

Wait, is that a thing? Like you get long term MPA orders just to go run some squadron's training shop?

 

Remember this is NOT pilots (yet), this is mostly enlisted leadership all over base including a few LRS & MX officers.  It's not totally uncommon for random people around base to get tagged with 6-month deployments during the ACS/RCP/AEF (whatever we call it these days) window.  What's different is they tagged 40+ from mx, which I have never seen before, nor have I ever seen them tag our MX officers.  But yes, all the MX folks I've talked to are being individually deployed to run shops at various bases within the AOR.  Apparently the AD is short on senior enlisted folks. 

On the plus side, they tagged about 4 our our Chiefs on base.  Soooooo...with an increase in Guard E-9s, you might see a significant decline in Chiefing incidents at your favorite deployed hotspots.  🤣

 

 

 

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Was reading this article, they talk a lot about how retention revolves around keeping FGO’s in staff positions? My understanding after lurking the forums for a while was that almost all pilots want to stay flying and don’t want a staff job. They even say that since the Air Force has “cut” staff positions and kept Majors and LT Cols flying the FGO Manning has gone to 750 over. Is this the Air Force not understanding its people again, or am I missing something? https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2020/07/07/heres-where-the-air-forces-pilot-shortfall-is-the-worst/

 

 

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Was reading this article, they talk a lot about how retention revolves around keeping FGO’s in staff positions? My understanding after lurking the forums for a while was that almost all pilots want to stay flying and don’t want a staff job. They even say that since the Air Force has “cut” staff positions and kept Majors and LT Cols flying the FGO Manning has gone to 750 over. Is this the Air Force not understanding its people again, or am I missing something? https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2020/07/07/heres-where-the-air-forces-pilot-shortfall-is-the-worst/

 

 

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The staffs have been gutted for several years now, which hid the outward pain of the pilot shortage initially.

 

My bet is the overage on FGOs makes up for the bathtub of senior Captains/instructors exacerbated by sequestration cuts and the great RIF of '14. Pair that with a low bonus take rate among the FGOs, and now you've got majors that can punch if they get an assignment they don't want, which in theory should help them stay flying the line.

 

So the AF keeps an FGO instructor which helps the experience problem at the line/operational units, but the staffs get short falled again, maybe with even deeper cuts.

 

Also with that, we've pretty much divested Navs on AD, which means the pilot force had to pick up the rated staff positions that used to be filled with Navs.

 

I think the AF is finally realizing it's in a graveyard spiral regarding pilot retention, but the operational pressure to keep pulling back on the stick (ie not let up on operational tempo and taskings) keeps tightening that spiral.

 

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The staffs have been gutted for several years now, which hid the outward pain of the pilot shortage initially.
 
My bet is the overage on FGOs makes up for the bathtub of senior Captains/instructors exacerbated by sequestration cuts and the great RIF of '14. Pair that with a low bonus take rate among the FGOs, and now you've got majors that can punch if they get an assignment they don't want, which in theory should help them stay flying the line.
 
So the AF keeps an FGO instructor which helps the experience problem at the line/operational units, but the staffs get short falled again, maybe with even deeper cuts.
 
Also with that, we've pretty much divested Navs on AD, which means the pilot force had to pick up the rated staff positions that used to be filled with Navs.
 
I think the AF is finally realizing it's in a graveyard spiral regarding pilot retention, but the operational pressure to keep pulling back on the stick (ie not let up on operational tempo and taskings) keeps tightening that spiral.
 

I’m very naive when it comes to big picture stuff. But if everything is still working in the AF without pilots filling staff jobs, does the AF really need pilots to fill staff slots? I understand people (pilots for example) don’t like leaders without flying experience/job knowledge making the big decisions. But it seems to me there might be some correlation between staff jobs being gutted, and FGOs staying in? Again, just picking that up from the article. I could be way off. I was prior-E and in college now so I have zero knowledge on this level of thinking. Just trying to gain a better understanding. Thanks for the reply.


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I’m very naive when it comes to big picture stuff. But if everything is still working in the AF without pilots filling staff jobs, does the AF really need pilots to fill staff slots? I understand people (pilots for example) don’t like leaders without flying experience/job knowledge making the big decisions. But it seems to me there might be some correlation between staff jobs being gutted, and FGOs staying in? Again, just picking that up from the article. I could be way off. I was prior-E and in college now so I have zero knowledge on this level of thinking. Just trying to gain a better understanding. Thanks for the reply.


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The problem with not having pilots on staff is that the positions either go unfilled and the staff makes bad decisions because lack of perspective or they are filled with GS civilians that turn into folks more interested in maintaining the status quo than fixing problems of the units. Worse yet they play good idea fairy on how to solve problems that aren’t problems.

I was in Stan/Eval at HQ AFSOC.
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26 minutes ago, Skitzo said:


The problem with not having pilots on staff is that the positions either go unfilled and the staff makes bad decisions because lack of perspective or they are filled with GS civilians that turn into folks more interested in maintaining the status quo than fixing problems of the units. Worse yet they play good idea fairy on how to solve problems that aren’t problems.

I was in Stan/Eval at HQ AFSOC.

That’s the big downfall of not having the conduit of current info and an advocate at staff, definitely. 
 

Especially at SAC, the dinosaurs don’t want to fund anything that bombers didn’t have in ‘Nam, because they don’t need that shit to gravity bomb. 
 

Some people want staff tours, some don’t. The AF is still very bad at listening to its people to figure out who is who. 

Edited by SurelySerious
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1 hour ago, Skitzo said:


The problem with not having pilots on staff is that the positions either go unfilled and the staff makes bad decisions because lack of perspective or they are filled with GS civilians that turn into folks more interested in maintaining the status quo than fixing problems of the units. Worse yet they play good idea fairy on how to solve problems that aren’t problems.

I was in Stan/Eval at HQ AFSOC.

It’s a testament to the few in staff that can get anything accomplished. Staff just seems to be unable to get out of its own way the vast majority of the time.

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I’m very naive when it comes to big picture stuff. But if everything is still working in the AF without pilots filling staff jobs, does the AF really need pilots to fill staff slots? I understand people (pilots for example) don’t like leaders without flying experience/job knowledge making the big decisions. But it seems to me there might be some correlation between staff jobs being gutted, and FGOs staying in? Again, just picking that up from the article. I could be way off. I was prior-E and in college now so I have zero knowledge on this level of thinking. Just trying to gain a better understanding. Thanks for the reply.


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There's probably some correlation between low staff numbers and retaining FGOs. My bet is not filling staffs initially probably bought some time to put in a longer term fix, but those fixes should've been done years ago. Instead, the can got kicked down the road.

Outside factors also matter, and there's some RAND studies that show that pilot retention ebbs and flows with the availability of outside opportunities (aka airline hiring). People got tired of the AF, and started getting out. Staffs got shortfalled to keep the mission happening, but the trickle out kept going. Then the airline hiring wave started, and was followed very closely by the great RIF of '14 (I guess you can argue which actually started first). The severe cuts combined with great outside opportunities meant pilots had options, and if they didn't want to take an assignment (primarily to staff, as that's typically the next assignment once the UPT commitment expired), they could turn down an undesirable assignment. AFPC pressed to test initially (and did so with 365s as well), but we're losing experienced officers bailing late in their careers.

Everything looks like it's running, and today's mission is getting done. But eventually, we'll have to pay the price. Staffs should be providing guidance to wings, and handling the longer view for planning for the enterprise, but a lot of stuff has been done poorly or just kicked down to the wings to figure it out on their own.

Do you need rated on staffs? Maybe, maybe not. Having rated officers in key positions within the staff brings the experience and understanding of being out on the line to the staff, and should help temper any good idea fairies. Assuming that the rated person going to staff is a good dude/dudette and credible. It'd be difficult to build that level of experience without having that rated ops experience, though it looks like the AF is trying to do this via the multi domain operators (13O). The important thing is having an understanding of the challenges that face the wings/squadrons/line pilot face

It's kinda like driving your car; you don't have to do any preventative MX, and your car will run fine, until one day it doesn't.
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Think big picture Joint level.  It saddens me to see Force Support O5 working FMS cases or non-pilots reciting buzzwords about weapon systems to Joint planners and Foreign partners.  Our international allies look to us for expert advice, do you really want non-pilots spew bullshit to these allies?  We need experienced and knowledgeable rated guys at the Joint level!

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Think big picture Joint level.  It saddens me to see Force Support O5 working FMS cases or non-pilots reciting buzzwords about weapon systems to Joint planners and Foreign partners.  Our international allies look to us for expert advice, do you really want non-pilots spew bullshit to these allies?  We need experienced and knowledgeable rated guys at the Joint level!


There's one of the big issues-how do you get FGOs to want go to the staffs?

And unfortunately, we're so far behind the power curve on pilot retention that even if a pilot FGO wanted to go to a particular staff, they may not be released to go.

The bonus used to solve that problem via an ADSC (they don't have to want to go, but are bound by contact to go where the AF needs), but the take rate has been low for years.

I think the AF had it's eye on the joint realm, and hence the huge emphasis on pole year (whether that's right or wrong is a different discussion). We've had a pretty good proportion of AF GOs at the joint level.
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36 minutes ago, panchbarnes said:

Think big picture Joint level.  It saddens me to see Force Support O5 working FMS cases or non-pilots reciting buzzwords about weapon systems to Joint planners and Foreign partners.  Our international allies look to us for expert advice, do you really want non-pilots spew bullshit to these allies?  We need experienced and knowledgeable rated guys at the Joint level!

Shack. Aircrew (not just pilots) are the war fighters of the AF. Could you immagine an Army staff with 0 infantry, armor or artillery expereince. 

A lot of people disdain staff but in all honesty some people really love and thrive in it. For the first time in your military career you get to think big picture/strategic and you can help shape some very large plans across an Enterprise. Definitely not for everyone but for the people that are beat to death from being line IPs year in and out, it offers a welcome change of pace with a new an enhanced skill set.

Is it for everyone? Probably not. But when has reducing the number of oppurtunities in a career field ever helped that career field thrive. We need to keep doors open not close them. The pilot retention crisis isnt about people wanting staff, not wanting staff, not wanting RPAs, wanting more UPT jobs, whatever.... The key thread to all of this is that it's really about people wanting a wide array of oppurtunities and a slight a bit of control to vector themselves to where their own interest lie. 

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The key thread to all of this is that it's really about people wanting a wide array of oppurtunities and a slight a bit of control to vector themselves to where their own interest lie. 


I agree with you on this, but the AF should've done this 10 years ago, when the first indications of a shortage were showing.

But it didn't, putting us where we are now. Now, to give those opportunities, means taking a body from an operational unit because the shortage has gotten that bad. Can't even rob the MAF pilot pool anymore to at least get a pilot body in a staff seat that once was held by a CAF pilot. Same with non-flying deployments.

MyVector is a step in the right direction. I was initially planning on just finding another flying assignment, and accepting that retiring as a major was a real possibility. Basically I had no desire to go to Scott and not fly in return for a miniscule increase in promotion opportunity. However, after some talks with my CC, I dug deeper in MyVector and found some staffs I didn't know about or think I'd have a shot at going to, and applied. I ended up getting my #2 choice, and going to work somewhere I thought I'd never have the opportunity to go to based on my DT vector.

Pilot bonus up to $35K for most initial eligible pilots is another step in the right direction (even though RAND says it should be roughly $48K to really affect retention).

So the ship is turning in the right direction, or at least starting to, but I fear it's too late, and the AF has just accepted the next 5-10 years are going to suck until it can produce it's way out of the problem.
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First step to fixing staff issues is to eliminate the Group staff. Single most useless organization I’ve seen. They exist to be middle men. I’ve actually been counting, and my last 7 interactions with them have produced exactly zero. Outside of the directorates, the number of execs they’re pulling from ops units to do nothing but forward emails and work on a rack and stack is a joke.

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It'll be interesting to see what happens with manning in the next 12 months.  A declining economy should dramatically improve the retention numbers across the board, and the political landscape could drastically change in 6 months leading to a reduced DoD budget and manpower is always the easiest cut as opposed to major weapon systems.

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Having worked MAJCOM staff, while it’s not as sexy as flying, fighting and winning, there is absolutely a need for rated expertise. There is a glut of retired AF aviators running divisions, who fill GS billets, but their currency is often decades old. Being able to participate, lead, and work on MAJCOM/HAF level projects is eye opening and expands your professional aperture. While some despise the idea of manning a desk, we need to be there, as we know what’s best for our fellows flyers.

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3 hours ago, jrizzell said:

Having worked MAJCOM staff, while it’s not as sexy as flying, fighting and winning, there is absolutely a need for rated expertise. There is a glut of retired AF aviators running divisions, who fill GS billets, but their currency is often decades old. Being able to participate, lead, and work on MAJCOM/HAF level projects is eye opening and expands your professional aperture. While some despise the idea of manning a desk, we need to be there, as we know what’s best for our fellows flyers.

Seconded.

Quals: current majcom staff fgo

Amplifying info: there's a handful of old GS civs hanging out, but outside of that i'm the only AO with recent (past 20 years) experience in my MDS.  I'm the tactics, training, readiness, and Stan eval SME, since there's no one else.  My job went vacant for the previous 2+ years, so I'm still digging the enterprise out of a hole of neglect.

In my experience everyone else means well, they just have no context whatsoever, and that leads to terrible decisions.

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On 7/9/2020 at 8:23 PM, Danger41 said:

First step to fixing staff issues is to eliminate the Group staff. Single most useless organization I’ve seen. They exist to be middle men. I’ve actually been counting, and my last 7 interactions with them have produced exactly zero. Outside of the directorates, the number of execs they’re pulling from ops units to do nothing but forward emails and work on a rack and stack is a joke.

I’ve heard arguments for and against.  For one, how is a Wing/CC supposed to manage 20 squadron CCs with no middle management? I heard back in the day there were two 0-6 Wing/DOs, one for ops and one for support. The respective squadron CCs would report to each 

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53 minutes ago, dream big said:

For one, how is a Wing/CC supposed to manage 20 squadron CCs with no middle management?

Be delegating responsibility to the squadrons.  There is no reason for waivers or approvals to require an O-6 approval.  Let Commanders be commanders, give them the power to run things the way they see fit, tell them the only reason to bother the O-6 is if they need something, and get rid of all the pointless meetings (most of which can be accomplished with an email).

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4 hours ago, YoungnDumb said:

Be delegating responsibility to the squadrons.  There is no reason for waivers or approvals to require an O-6 approval.  Let Commanders be commanders, give them the power to run things the way they see fit, tell them the only reason to bother the O-6 is if they need something, and get rid of all the pointless meetings (most of which can be accomplished with an email).

Weird how the Navy/USMC can figure out a way to not have 6-9 middle men in every organization, and the squadron COMMANDER commands real authority, yet the Air Force thinks it is impossible.
 

We are such a bloated organization. It’s ridiculous how many random organizations there are that shouldn’t exist/be independent entities, and only exist to create another useless billet for “command.”

Edited by Hawg15
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4 hours ago, Hawg15 said:

Weird how the Navy/USMC can figure out a way to not have 6-9 middle men in every organization, and the squadron COMMANDER commands real authority, yet the Air Force thinks it is impossible.
 

We are such a bloated organization. It’s ridiculous how many random organizations there are that shouldn’t exist/be independent entities, and only exist to create another useless billet for “command.”

Makes sense.  For instance, when Dyess 317th was an Airlift Group it was the place to be for herks. It ran flawlessly, morale and training was never better.

Then it became a wing, and AMC flat out admitted it was to create more 0-6 billets.  The first wing king was a toxic POS and was fired for it.  Retention for O-4s went from high 80s to single digit percentages. The IP core was cannibalized to fill all the new positions. 
 

To get rid of Groups, you first need to cut some of the bloat and red tape on the staffs.  Otherwise the Wing’s won’t be able to keep up with the admin. 

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Worth noting that Space Force immediately dropped Group and NAF level their coand echelons. Granted they are very small at the moment but I am sure they anticipated growth when they laid out the structure. 

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