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A new tomorrow

By Lt. Col. Eric Sikes 20th Bomb Squadron commander

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What will tomorrow look like for the Air Force? What will it look like for Barksdale Air Force Base? What will it look like for your squadron? Only one thing is certain: Tomorrow will look different than today. How can we prepare for a different tomorrow if our thoughts and paradigms are stuck in the past?

With sequestration forcing us to think about a new tomorrow, we all need to look at what changes need to be made to our organizations. For the B-52 operations group, we are reduced to less than fifty percent of the flying hours for which we planned. That means we cannot apply yesterday's philosophy of maintaining combat mission ready aircrews. We now have to choose which aircrew members continue to fly and design a training program for those who are not flying. We are also carefully planning sorties to ensure every minute of flight time is optimized for combat training. These changes required a shift in our old mental model. We used to chase air refueling tankers all over the country to practice one of the hardest and most perishable skills for our pilots. We used to fly to Utah and Nevada to drop bombs on a scoring site that gave instant results of how well our navigators were doing. We used to add extra crewmembers to sorties to allow additional aircrew training at no extra sortie production cost. Those days are over and are not likely to come back. Tomorrow is different and tomorrow is here.

In order to meet this new challenge in our new tomorrow, we have shifted our mindset to focus our flying hour program on less than half of our aviators. We have eliminated the previous practice of flying with additional crewmembers because the current sortie durations simply do not allow it. We have asked maintenance to provide an extra spare aircraft when multiple jets are scheduled for air refueling to help reduce the chance of missing a tanker due to aircraft issues. We are utilizing the simulator more for all of our aviators. All of these changes are fundamentally different from how we did business yesterday, and it has not been an easy shift to make. However, the shift is necessary if we are going to prepare for a new tomorrow.

We have also changed how we make aircrew instructors. Air Force Global Strike Command has approved a program designed to allow operational squadrons to upgrade aircrew to instructor. This is a huge paradigm shift for the B-52 operational community. Some people are opposed to this change and think that the essence of the Centralized Flight Instructor Course (CFIC), created by Strategic Air Command, will be lost. To those people, I say that tomorrow is different and tomorrow is here. The essence of CFIC will endure as long as the B-52 is flying. Current and future leaders will ensure instructors continue to teach our instructor candidates how to instruct and how to keep our crewmembers safe. The old system of instructor production created a backlog at the operational squadron level that caused significant delays for those ready to upgrade. The new system allows squadron and group commanders added flexibility in managing the instructor force. CFIC will continue at the Formal Training Unit for most instructor candidates, but the new CFIC program is one step toward a better tomorrow.

It is very easy to sit on the sidelines, pick apart current decisions, and be the constant naysayer. It is very difficult to be in the game looking at the current fiscal environment and design a strategy to achieve success in our new tomorrow. Where do you sit? Are your thoughts centered on a new tomorrow or stuck in the past? Are you on the sidelines or are you in the game? I challenge each reader to get in the game and help us create a better tomorrow. We need your help, your ideas and most importantly, your support!