WICHITA FALLS, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Preparations are underway at Sheppard Air Force Base to welcome an influx of personnel as soon as April.
In the 2016 Fiscal Defense Budget, signed into effect by President Barack Obama in December, the Air Force will add about 6,600 airmen, including 4,020 active-duty personnel, 2,100 to the Air Force Reserve and 500 to the Air National Guard.
SAFB commanders, including Brigadier General Patrick Doherty, 82nd Training Wing Commander Col. Patrick E. Butler and Col. Paul E. Henderson responded Friday to how this change will affect training at Sheppard.
Doherty said additional numbers were approved because the current geopolitical situation coupled with a complex future security environment means Air Force capabilities will be in high demand.
The Air Force is increasing the number of airmen for many high-demand specialties, including aircraft maintenance technicians, cyber capabilities, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance specialties.
Sheppard AFB will see a small increase in airmen across a spectrum of specialties the base teaches, including armament, avionics, propulsion technicians and explosive ordnance disposal specialists.
Butler said that during 2016, the Air Force will increase the number of airmen entering the service by about 2,000. Sheppard will receive about 1,000 of those personnel throughout the year.
"As with any increase, the Air Force must first recruit the right personnel to fill these jobs and then send them through eight weeks of basic military training before they arrive at Sheppard," Henderson said. "Once the new personnel arrive, Sheppard AFB will continue to train and inspire the next generation of Air Force warriors before we send them out to their new duty station."
No new training courses are expected, but the base will be bringing on more instructors to teach the additional airmen.
The base has the basic infrastructure to meet the needs of the additional training requirements, and commanders said they see no problems with training these additional airmen.
"As with any personnel increase, we will have to address dormitory availability, physical training schedules, dining facility arrangements and so forth," Butler said.
Doherty underlines that Sheppard and the support of the local community is vital to the Air Force mission. The base commander said Sheppard AFB will successfully meet the challenge of training these airmen to do their military jobs and inspire them to be the kind of people the American people expect them to be, just as they have been doing for the past 75 years.
©2016 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)
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