Just over a month ago, the 388th Fighter Wing underwent a change of command as Col. Scott Long assumed command from Col. Scott Zobrist.
As a command pilot, Long has put in more than 2,800 flying hours and held various leadership positions including the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group commander at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Long took a few moments to answer some questions about himself, what his initial impression is of the wing, and what he expects of his time at Hill.
Question: What do you think of the 388th Fighter Wing, and how does it compare to other places you've served?
Long: The 388th Fighter Wing is an exceptional wing. It's a real blessing and privilege to be the commander of such an incredible base with a noble and worthy mission. I think very highly of the 388th Fighter Wing, because it continues to be a viable and credible base for many reasons. To be part of that has been an incredible experience so far, and I've had a blast my first month here. It's similar to other wings, except several are not around anymore, which truly tells you something about Hill, and the importance it has to our nation.
Q: What's been the biggest surprise so far?
Long: My biggest surprise so far is how many issues I've had to deal with ranging from the mission, the health of the fleet and Airmen, and the unique set of challenges that I've been given. I knew it would be challenging, but I didn't realize to this extent. I have a lot to do, and I'm excited to continue to stay busy.
Q: As commander, what do you see as your primary role?
Long: My primary role is to do just that -- to command and be the person responsible for the 388th Fighter Wing. I will make sure the mission is accomplished and take care of the Airmen at the same time. I also need to ensure our nation is better off with what happens here at Hill, and I'm solely responsible in the end for the ability for the 388th Fighter Wing to perform its mission.
Q: If you had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with Airmen in the wing, what would you say?
Long: I would focus on our mission and exactly what that mission is. For me, it's pretty simple:
1) To be prepared to deploy anywhere, anytime;
2) To fly, fight and win with disciplined airpower;
3) To secure freedom and liberty for our nation.
Those three guiding principles are what I would communicate and connect the individual Airman's role to. Regardless of what their job is, the Air Force is getting smaller, so every Airman counts just like every sortie counts. I would explain their tie in to that mission and clearly convey that each one of them has a very critical role in it.
Q: What do you see as the wing's greatest challenge this next year?
Long: Our greatest challenge will be going from where we are now to being the best wing in the Air Combat Command from a mission and Airman perspective. Our challenge will be to consistently meet mission criteria. It will also be to continuously develop our Airmen to be part of that mission so they understand their role in it and to serve this nation in whatever capacity they've been asked to serve in and do it with 110 percent.
Q: What will be the next step in improving maintenance production and inspection results?
Long: My next step is to make sure that the Airmen are able to get the mission accomplished, which specifically means, among other things, is to meet ACC's standard of an 81 percent aircraft mission capable rate. I want to go beyond that and reach an 85 percent mission capable rate. It's already occurring, and we're getting there every day by hitting singles. I will be challenged during the next month to free Airmen and allow them to do their job. I plan to remove obstacles that get in their way so they are able to stay in compliance with the TOs and other AFIs. I plan to find those items that keep them from getting the maintenance rates we need. That will likely be my biggest challenge.
Q: What is your vision for making the most out of Total Force Integration?
Long: First, I think Total Force Integration here at Hill works. It may not be as optimized, and it may need evaluation, so what Col. (Keith) Knudson and I plan to do is initiate a Tiger Team to explore options to make it more efficient with more synergy. Our strategy is to create a three-tiered framework. First, we will look at steady state home operations and how we, as two wings, operate daily at Hill. The second piece is to determine how we would execute a CONUS-type deployment, or a TDY, to Nellis, Fallon or another place for a short-term deployment. Lastly, we'll examine how we integrate during an overseas deployment, such as Operation Enduring Freedom. We'll look at faces and places, and where it makes sense to integrate and where it doesn't make sense. We'll examine how we can gain efficiencies from a top to bottom review. The desired end result is to develop a revised Memorandum of Understanding/Agreement, and decipher what needs to change so we have a revised document both wing commanders agreed upon and abide by.
Q: What do you hear from the community with respect to the 388th Fighter Wing? Are they satisfied with the wing's performance?
Long: The civic leaders have been very engaged, and they're very supportive. We received an overwhelming outpouring of support from the civic leaders and news organizations when the 4th Fighter Aviation Package returned from Afghanistan. I think we're on a very positive track with our community leaders. There may have been some concerns about the Operational Readiness Inspection failure and how we would do on the re-inspection. Since we passed, I'm sure there's a level of confidence that has been rebuilt. It's important to stay engaged with the community, and show our progress from the ORI, to where we're going.
It's vital for me, as the commander, to stay engaged with the civic leaders to ensure they're frequently updated and learn how we're improving. I also think they have a high level of confidence in us based on our performance in Afghanistan, which is really where it counts. We were asked to serve seven months, and by the way, that was the third deployment. The 421st Fighter Squadron served in Bagram, then the 34th Fighter Squadron, and the 4th followed. I think the community has a very strong, passionate confidence level in Hill. We're getting over the ORI hurdle and quickly moving forward with positive energy and passion to get the mission done.
Q: What are you looking forward to getting involved with the community in, and where will we likely find you on a weekend?
Long: Lately you'll find me on the flight line or in my office taking care of some discipline issues on the weekend. I really haven't had a day off since I got here. It's likely that until we're able to accomplish our mission in a stable, consistent manner that you'll find me working on the weekends. I do, however, really look forward to hiking, fishing and all those unique activities the surrounding community presents to people at Hill. I'm not sure when that's going to happen, and to be honest with you, that's OK, because I have a job to do. My job isn't to come to Hill to hike and to ski, my job is to get here and ensure the mission is accomplished and that the people of this nation have confidence in the United States Air Force's ability to fly, fight and win. And that's what we do. As the mission gets accomplished, I'll have weekends to do that, and I look forward to it.
Q: Can you discuss your experience in Afghanistan and how it prepared you for this command?
Long: To serve your nation in combat and to command in combat is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm very blessed and privileged to have been able to command 10 to 11 different squadrons in combat for the nine months that I was there. I can't imagine there being a more rewarding opportunity and to be there at that very critical moment when everything you've learned for more than 20 years gets to that one moment in time, and you're able to accomplish the mission. It's very satisfying and rewarding. So no matter what happens -- inside or out of the military -- I will look back on that as a blessing to have served in that capacity. Most important was providing kinetic and non-kinetic effects to the guys on the ground, who were in desperate need of airpower. Without our Airmen, who are doing amazing things there 24-7, 365, the ground forces would be in poor shape.
It was very gratifying to be able to save lives while crushing the enemy. It was second to none. I was a young lieutenant in Desert Storm, which was a totally different war. That was another great learning experience, but this one was much more challenging and difficult. The terrain is a very, very tough environment so every skill set you ever had was tested daily in a very dynamic, dangerous environment. I think this helped prepare me to fully understand what is it is that airpower can do, and more importantly what we as Airmen of the 388th will continue to be called upon to do. This is why the mission is so important, because lives are on the line and it matters, as well as discipline and leadership. This isn't Burger King, IBM or Google; it is the business of securing liberty and freedom and keeping others at bay from harming those home and abroad. I know this may sound pie in the sky, but it's true, and it really matters.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
Long: Yes, it's an honor and privilege to be the wing commander of the 388th. The men and women including military, civilian and everyone part of this wing, have a noble mission. I look forward to seeing that mission accomplished and the morale that's built and sustained once a job's well done. That kind of pride is so important to a military organization. I really look forward to the upcoming months and being responsible for what this wing provides to our nation. I take every day as a blessing, and I'm amazed at what I get to do. I also look forward to the civic outreach piece of my job, building relationships and keeping that dynamic strong and alive. It's so important to have the surrounding community's support.