“It’s so good to be back. I feel like I’m back home,” said the commander of Air Combat Command to nearly 500 Airmen during an “all call” at Hill Air Force Base on April 20.
Gen. Mike Hostage, who served as the 388th Fighter Wing commander from April 1998-January 2000, visited the base April 18-20 to receive updates on the base's missions. Hill also hosted ACC's spring commander's group meeting, which provided 21 civic leaders from across the nation an opportunity to interact with Airmen and observe firsthand Hill's impact on the Air Force's combat capability.
During the "all call", Hostage explained ACC's mission -- to be the primary force provider of combat airpower for the United States Air Force.
He also addressed topics such as the current operations tempo, Total Force Integration and the fiscal environment.
"Our Air Force has been at a very high operations tempo for more than a decade," he said. "And we're going to see a continued requirement for us to be forward deployed."
This high ops tempo world that we're involved in is not going to fundamentally change anytime in the near future, Hostage said. According to COMACC, we're leveraging more capability with a smaller force with help from the Guard and Reserve, who carried about 20 percent of the load in the Middle East for the past 10 years.
Total Force Integration (TFI) between the active duty and reserve components is a way to preserve the force structure as the Air Force endures fiscal cuts that our nation demands, he said. "You all seem to recognize the benefits and value of the TFI relationship that exists between the 419th and 388th fighter wings," Hostage said.
While addressing the current budget constraints, Hostage said although the defense cut is a big deal, he must still ensure full, operational capability. He called doing more with less "the battle cry of a hollow force," and the worst thing that he can allow happen, as commander, is for the force to be hollowed out.
"The task I set for the ACC staff and your commanders is that we will not hollow out this force," he said. "When you're hollow and constantly moving people overseas, the high ops tempo can cause great stress on the force. And as you hollow out, you're making people do more with less, and eventually you're going to break that force," he said.
Hostage said "hollowness" is measured in several different ways: having airplanes on the ramp that can't fly, or having empty spaces in a unit because you're not fully manned, or having a flying hour program that doesn't have enough hours to fly out all training requirements are a few examples.
"We will ensure the mission critical gets done, and we will do a constant assessment on what is mission critical," he said.
This means identifying the things that are least important, stop doing them and applying those resources to do what's most important.
"This can be very difficult, and we'll need to make some hard choices," he said.
"What I need you to focus on is operational capability. Our nation counts on F-16 combat capability from this wing, and we count on the additional capability that comes out of the 419th. Those things have to be done and have to be done well, and those are mission critical capabilities that you produce," he said.
The challenge is to not lose sight of those must-dos, ought-to-dos, and like-to-dos, and make sure we remain properly focused, he said.
"As we go through these fiscal challenges, we'll still be the most capable Air Force on the planet because of what you all produce every day," he said.
After answering multiple questions from Airmen, he closed the "all call" by saying how it's been a pleasure being back at Hill and visiting with the great men and women of the 388th and 419th fighter wings.
"As a parent, grandparent and fellow warrior, thank you for your service, and thanks for your time here today," he said.