Increased operational tempo and a tightening budget are among Kadena enlisted airmen’s top concerns, the Air Force’s top enlisted man said while visiting the air base Wednesday.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray said both put extra pressure on airmen, but they have adapted well.

“They are being asked to do more with less and in some ways they are,” Murray said.

Kadena airmen have done that by, among other ways, using more cargo aircraft for passengers and medical airlifts, he said.

Because of directives from the Defense Department and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force must differentiate what is needed from what is nice to have, Murray said.

For example, the service must weigh the benefit and prestige of having top brass attend school graduations against the cost of travel.

“It’s hard to measure that with an intrinsic value,” Murray said.

“Everything is on the table” as far as budget cuts are concerned, he said, but he emphasized that he considers tuition supplements and technical school funds to be essential activities.

“The rising educational cost for several years in a row has outpaced funding,” Murray said. He said he supported adding supplementary funds to cover last year’s tuition shortfall.

Non-mission-critical activities already have been axed. A conference involving foreign military officers, two years in the making, had to be postponed until 2006, Murray said. The Air Force also is saving money by curtailing recruiting efforts toward reducing the number of active-duty airmen.

Murray also toured the base. Noting that some cargo planes were built in the 1950s and some fighters in the 1970s, Murray singled out Kadena’s aircraft maintenance teams for their upkeep on aging aircraft.

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