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Air Force's top enlisted leader emphasizes 'shaping' of force

Clarification

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The U.S. Air Force’s top enlisted leader reassured airmen in Europe on Wednesday that despite the Pentagon’s current fiscal constraints, the service would not see the level of downsizing that occurred about five years ago, when the Air Force began reducing its force by more than 40,000.

“We’re not downsizing. We’ve done that. We’re shaping the force,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy told thousands of airmen packed into an aircraft hangar at Ramstein Air Base during an all-hands call.

The Air Force will reduce its personnel numbers by about 10,000 airmen, with reductions affecting both active duty as well as Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve, Roy said. Advisers later said that, as part of a 10-year plan to cut costs, the service would achieve those force strength reductions in fiscal 2013.

Though he did not discuss in-depth how the Air Force would transition to a smaller force, Roy did say some airmen would be asked to retrain for different career fields based on mission requirements.

It’s also likely that fewer airmen will be recruited into the service, but the change will be “very, very small,” Roy said. In an interview after his address to the airmen, Roy called that option “a very dangerous path” due to the effect it can have on the force in future years.

He also indicated in the interview that the bar could be raised for airmen currently serving.

“We are constantly looking at the performance of our airmen,” he said. “The way I state it is, we’re a competitive air force currently, and we’re going to be even more competitive in the future.

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“We will always have room for airmen — great airmen — in our United States Air Force,” he said.

But even as the Air Force gets more competitive, don’t expect to see fitness test scores tied to promotion, Roy said during the all-hands call, in response to a question from an Air Force staff sergeant.

Fitness test scores are important, he said, “but it’s not the only” gauge.

Roy wouldn’t say how Air Force personnel reductions would play out in Europe, but he said in the interview that airmen would continue to have opportunities to serve at U.S. bases in Europe, from Turkey to the United Kingdom.

It’s possible the Air Force structure will be “a little different” in Europe, Roy said. But the service “has an enduring presence here and will continue to be here.”

svanj@estripes.osd.mil

Clarification

Advisers to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy clarified Thursday that, as part of a 10-year plan to cut costs, the service would achieve those force strength reductions in fiscal 2013.

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