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Expansion plans close to final for maintenance squadron

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap
  • 931st ARG Public Affairs
10/13/2008 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- It's been in the works for years, but now Lt. Col. Jeff Pickard, 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander, is seeing it all come together.

His squadron is expanding and is expected to more than triple in size in the next few years. Earlier this month, Colonel Pickard learned that $4 million secured by Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt for speeding up the expansion was officially reserved for the 931st Air Refueling Group.

"We're hoping (the money) jump starts our recruiting by six to eight months," Colonel Pickard said.

Air Force planners are scheduled to visit the 931st ARG in early December to help fine tune what is starting to look like a final expansion plan. The focus of the visit will be discussing what new maintenance jobs to add and what facilities will house personnel. How many people will be added to the squadron has already been determined.

"On paper, we will be group-level strength," Colonel Pickard said," comprised of a group staff, maintenance squadron, aircraft maintenance squadron, and an operations squadron or flight."

Filling the new units should keep 931st recruiters plenty busy the next few years. The squadron now includes just over 100 Airmen. It will grow to just over 400 by October 2009, to include a total of 66 master sergeants, 21 senior master sergeants and six chief master sergeants.

Nearly 100 of the new positions will be filled by full-time air reserve technicians. That does not include, Colonel Pickard pointed out, any non-maintenance positions the Group might eventually need to support a group-sized maintenance organization.

The Group's recruiters will likely be "in full-blown recruiting mode" by springtime of 2009, Colonel Pickard said. An immediate goal is to add every Air Force specialty needed for a "functional maintenance group" and to get at least a few Airmen in each job.

Colonel Pickard and members of his staff recently met with Colonel Edsel "Archie" Frye Jr., 931st ARG Commander, and recruiters to talk about strategies for adding personnel. The target audience, Colonel Frye told the recruiters, are the people who live in and close to Wichita. Recruiting locally not only funnels money back into Wichita's economy, it saves money for the 931st, the Air Force, and the taxpayer.

Also talked about during the meeting was the newly-revised "Get 1 Now," a proven program that rewards Airmen for bringing others into the Air Force Reserve. The program now offers iPods, PlayStations and other items that appeal to today's generation, in return for successful referrals. There's hope the new rewards will give 931st Airmen added incentive to boost the recruiting effort.

Colonel Frye stressed that a total team effort is needed for expansion success. The road ahead is something he talks about a lot. Because when it comes to priorities, he said, "there isn't anything more important than our future."