KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — After months of preparation for the 18th Wing’s operational readiness inspection, Tech. Sgt. O.J. Johnson was surprised that on the eve of the final dress rehearsal, the inspection was postponed.

“I thought it was a joke,” Johnson said about first hearing the news. “We were geared up to go ahead and take the ORI head on.”

The inspection has been bumped from November to an undecided future date to accommodate Pacific Air Forces’ desire to extend the time between each inspection of the theater’s bases, according to PACAF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Tracey Saiki.

Gen. Paul Hester, PACAF commander, decided to start the longer intervals with Kadena, Saiki said. That the decision came Oct. 12 in the final weeks of preparation was disappointing, 18th Wing inspector general Col. Mark Arlinghaus said Wednesday, but not disconcerting given the base’s hectic tempo.

He said the Shoguns were ready for the ORI but there was some “breathing room within the Air Force directive” mandating that inspections be no more than 60 months apart. Kadena won’t need to be inspected until fall 2008.

With the ORI off the calendar, Kadena can shift its priorities, he said. It’s gearing up for the Air Expeditionary Force deployment in January, its largest deployment. The base also is taking in the Patriot Advanced Cability-3 missile defensive system, a joint operation with the Army that was recently relocated to Kadena.

The system will “change the way we do business,” Arlinghaus said. Once the system is operational, PACAF inspectors will have a different set of capabilities to evaluate at Kadena, he said.

Given the months of preparation the base did for the inspection — there were even full pages in the base newspaper dedicated to ORI tips — Arlinghaus said the command made it clear to everyone the postponement in no way was a “no confidence” vote from PACAF.

“We’ve demonstrated we’re on top of our game,” he said.

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