Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey is the Air Mobility Command command chief.

Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey is the Air Mobility Command command chief. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — As military operations keep airmen with Air Mobility Command at work around the clock, the command’s top enlisted leader checked in with some of her Europe-based airmen last week.

Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey said that she and AMC commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II are concerned about the motivation, health and morale of their airmen given the current budgetary challenges and demands placed on them.

“Our first concern is to make sure our airmen know how much we appreciate them, because we understand how busy Air Mobility Command is,” she said.

Frey met with AMC airmen at Spangdahlem and Ramstein air bases last week to hear their concerns and express her appreciation for their work. At Ramstein, she stopped at the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing. The wing, stretched across 10 squadrons comprised of 14 geographically separated units in 13 countries, supports five combatant commanders without any dedicated aircraft.

“This is touch-and-go maintenance; this is like going to Jiffy Lube, a quick stop and continuing on the mission,” Frey said in an interview with Stars and Stripes. “They stop here whether it’s for a break, gas, to upload or offload.”

Across the entire Air Mobility Command, airmen support aircraft about every 2.8 minutes, she said. Their missions include refueling, aeromedical evacuation, delivering supplies, and transporting cargo and personnel.

“That sounds exciting, but it’s also exhausting,” Frey said.

Budget uncertainty and constraints on funding are among the command’s biggest challenges, she said, coupled with pilot and maintainer retention.

“This is just a difficult time,” she said. “I don’t even want to call it difficult: These are different times.”

Air Force leaders have said “we are smaller than we’ve ever been, and yet we’re too big for the budget,” Frey added, “and we feel that.”

Frey asks airmen during her visits: “Is there something that we can do to help support your mission?”

Frey is interested in taking a look at “how do we give airmen time back?” On slow days, supervisors could be asking, ‘Hey, have you done what you need to do? You did? How about you take off a little early today?’

“We have to stop and ... look at what we’re asking people to do ... and how do we make this work without overburdening them or creating a mass exodus for the door.” she said. “We really need to sit down and have those common-sense conversations and let the airmen be a part of that.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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