Submissions are anonymous, and you will not receive a direct response. Once addressed by wing leadership, the response to your concern may be posted below, pending subject matter.
Contact Public Affairs for a direct response.
Action Line Question: When is the shopette going to open on Sundays again? We're in HPCON Alpha
Wing Leadership Response: The Express closure on Sundays was not due to the HPCON level. One of the hardest hit areas for the Exchange during the pandemic has been fuel sales. In order to offset the losses from fuel sales operating hours were reviewed at the Express. The results showed that on Sundays 97% of sales came from unattended fueling and only 3% from retail sales which does not warrant manning the facility on Sundays. AAFES is reviewing the current data as things open up and will work smartly to move facilities back to pre-COVID operating hours.
Action Line Question: Will The Youth Center, CDC, and other FSS Facility's be closed on the 16th AF Family days outlined in the 16th AF memorandum dated Jan 28 2021?
Wing Leadership Response:
Thank you for allowing us to clarify the operating status of our FSS facilities on the 16 AF Family Days. The 319 FSS and it’s activities will follow the 28 Jan 21 16 AF memorandum, but the status of each FSS activity will vary. The 319 FSS will release it’s operational status no later than 2 days prior to the listed Family Day and prior to holidays. For example, you should expect to see an operating status for FSS facilities no later than 3 Mar 21 in preparation for the 5 Mar 21 Family Day.
The goal of the FSS is an open and transparent operating status to best our Grand Forks Airman and their Families.
Action Line Question: Regarding recent Covid guidelines, how should the base population respond to mask-wearing in the fitness center? According to the wing memorandum posted in the fitness center, masks are not required when in an intense active fitness routine. According to the FSS webpage that was updated on February 12, 2021, masks are not required when actively working out. However, on February 13th, 2021, a gentleman who identified himself as FSS leadership/staff instructed every individual in the fitness center to put a mask on even when actively lifting weights. The gentleman’s instruction goes against the wing CC’s memorandum and the FSS guidance on their webpage. Not to mention that even FSS leadership cannot medically justify a specific individual’s fitness level and intensity. This issue needs to be formally addressed base-wide and at a level that does not contradict or single out certain fitness activities to include swimming, basketball, weightlifting, walking, etc. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The 319th Force Support Squadron leadership team has coordinated with the 319th Medical Group Public Health Office and reviewed the Department of Defense, and 319the Reconnaissance Wing commander policies and will be publishing fitness center guidance on activities requiring a mask.
The updated guidance will be published and available to all patrons no later than March 1, 2021. FSS will ensure that the official FSS website is updated and reflects current guidance. We kindly request your patience as we work to align and clarify these fast moving policy updates.
Also, please be aware that FSS leadership coordinates with all appropriate agencies, prior to updating any policy or guidance that is enforced. Ultimately, the health and welfare of our Airmen and their families is our priority.
Thank you again for bringing this issue to our attention and allowing us to better serve our Grand Forks family.
Action Line Question: I am a concerned parent with my child attending the CDC. We received an email today regarding the mandatory mask policy that was implemented. I would like to ask why you are making a child who is 2- 3 years old; some of which still can’t talk, use the restroom on their own, wash their hands on their own (this list can go on forever), be mandated to wear a mask. How is this safe for children? North Dakota is already in the process of lifting the mandatory mask policy due to a major decrease in COVID numbers, so why are you NOW making our children wear masks? A YEAR LATER!!! Have you seen their nasal passages? Their tiny mouths? Please tell me why and how you expect them to breathe properly in these? I understand this is being mandated from higher Air Force and am hoping the high number of concerned parents encourages you to pass a waiver for this base.
Thank you for the thoughtful question and for expressing your concerns with regard to the health and safety of our most precious resource, our children.
As Col Pringle stated in his Facebook Live update on February 25, 2021, COVID mitigation strategies are carefully considered prior to enforcement. Each decision is made at all levels of the Air Force using the resources available and in coordination with medical authorities.
The Department of Defense memo “Use of Masks and Other Public Health Measures”, dated February 4, 2021, requires all individuals on military installations, and all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the DoD from any location other than the individual's home, including outdoor shared spaces, to wear masks in accordance with the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Follow-on guidance from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Commander of the Air Force Services Center clarified when and where masks should be worn. That guidance directed that children over the age of 2, in the Child and Youth programs (Child Development Center and Youth Programs), are required to wear a mask.
After receiving the guidance, the Child and Youth Programs staff notified parents of children in the program as quickly as possible using multiple communication methods. If any child has a documented health concern, we highly encourage parents to work with our staff to establish an exception to policy. If we notice any negative trends, affecting the safety of the children, the CYP staff and FSS will submit a waiver request to the appropriate approval authority.
Again, thank you for your concern.
Action Line Question: Who is in charge of ensuring that the trucks on base are properly applying sand to the icy roads? Whomever it is should take a drive around base because they're doing a horrible job. The point of sand (or any abrasive material) is to provide traction--it's a safety issue. After driving from town where sand is spread evenly over the streets, and consistently after every snow event (because I see them doing it)...it is very obvious that the only priority on base is to plow and providing traction seems like an afterthought. There are *maybe* 8 foot stretches of sand, then nothing for 75-100 yards. In some areas on base, there are spots, yes, spots of sand then another stretch of 75-100 yards of nothingness until you get to the next area of sand that could vary from 1-8 feet. I'd like to be able to drive on base without feeling like I'm driving on an ice rink. Thanks.
Thank you for your feedback on the condition of our base roads. Winter driving safety is very important and we appreciate your interest in improving conditions on base.
This situation is a bit complex as six different organizations are responsible for snow removal operations on base. The attached three page slide show lists the organizations responsible and provides their contact info so you may report problem areas.
Our on base snow removal operations are structured differently than those of the city of Grand Forks, Grand Forks County or ND DOT. Grand Forks County is permitted to utilize chemicals that are not authorized on DoD installations. Additionally, Grand Forks County pre-treats roads with de-icing chemicals preceding a storm, which the Grand Forks AFB contractors do not. Our Snow Removal contractors utilize sand/aggregate, salt-sand mix, and deicer materials on pavements on base, which are applied at critical locations (such as intersections) and as conditions warrant (during ice storms). The normal standard for road straightaways on base is packed snow – not bare pavement – so materials are not applied until the straightaways develop into ice. Unfortunately, DoD budgets do not permit intensive application of traction improving materials to cover the entirety of the base roads for an entire snow season.
All motorists on the installation are encouraged to proceed cautiously (e.g., reduce speed, increase following and stopping distances, indicate turns no less than 100-ft prior to intersection, etc.). For areas that are particularly troublesome (ice accumulation), please contact the appropriate Snow Hotline for the area having issues.
Action Line Question: I want to address what I see as a problem with Balfour Beatty. I and a few of our friends, do not have entry authorizations on file with our lease meaning we don't want people in our house unless we are home (excluding emergencies). The problem is our houses are entered anyway and when we try to address the issue no one seems to care very much even though we have minors that are rightfully and lawfully allowed to be home alone, and are now terrified because of someone that came into our house. I thought we had rights? The resident guide clearly states on page 8 "The Community Management Office has an immediate right of entry to the home if, in the community managers sole discretion, emergency conditions are presumed to exist". The times my home has been entered in my absence was not deemed an emergency. Now, on page 13 of the resident guide it states that "if the resident has not provided an authorization to enter, a four-hour window of time will be scheduled as an appointment for the work to be performed. If the resident is not home when the maintenance technician arrives to perform the work, a door hanger note indicating that their attempt to make the repair will be left to notify the resident. The note will have a phone number to call to reschedule the work". Will we ever be in a time when we have the right to say you will not come into my house? I thought for sure with all the hot water facing privatized housing some of this was going to get better, but it doesn't seem so? Any help or advice in holding privatized housing accountable?
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for elevating your concerns and giving me the opportunity to help resolve them. In short, Balfour Beatty technicians should never enter your home when you’re not there unless they received your permission or emergency conditions are presumed to exist. If this was violated, you can call the BBC Community Manager directly at 701-594-8000, the Military Housing Office at 701- 747-3035, or the Resident Advocate at 701-747-4095 or email email@example.com. The Resident Advocate is a new position that was created to serve as a Wing Liaison between Balfour Beatty and the Military Housing Office to help advocate for safe and healthy homes for military members and their families. Mr. Powell is available and will assist you in resolving your concerns with Balfour Beatty or the Military Housing Office.
You also asked about keeping Balfour Beatty technicians out of your home entirely. I understand your frustration, but Balfour Beatty’s technicians do need to gain access to all homes occasionally to perform routine maintenance and make improvements that are important to the safety and quality of life for your family and future families down the road. But, of course, these services should be coordinated with you as outlined in the Resident Guide.
Action Line Question: I live on Langley Ave and since the giant voice update, the volume is absolutely deafening, even indoors with windows locked. It is scaring and waking up my children daily. It is the loudest of any base we have lived at, including one where the speaker was directly in front of our home. Is it possible to adjust the volume down a bit? I understand the need for it and don’t expect not to hear it at all, but the volume is painful even indoors. Thank you.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for your feedback on the Giant Voice system. One of my primary concerns is for the health and welfare of all base residents, and the Giant Voice system plays an important role when it comes to mass notifications of emergency conditions to the base populace. Based on your feedback, the 319th Communications Squadron muted the playing of Reveille and Taps from the poles located within housing. This preserves emergency mass notification coverage within housing but eliminates the early morning and late night music. The National Anthem will continue playing at 1700 with the normal volume. Once again, thanks for your feedback in helping us to serve our community!
Action Line Question: On July 28 the DFAC was only accepting meal cards for airmen who live in the dorms because the credit/debit option was down. I understand that they are not currently accepting cash due to COVID restrictions, but the DFAC is the only option on nights/weekends. Shift workers who are not on meal cards can end up going 12-14 hours without anything to eat. In these situations is there something that can be done so we do not get turned away because we are not on meal card? Possibly accepting cash with extra precautions or being able to charge the meal at a later time?
Wing Leadership Response: We recognize and apologize for the impact that the loss of debit/credit card payment capabilities had on many of our Grand Forks AFB teammates. Please know that our FSS team has diligently worked with the AF Services Center and internet contractor to troubleshoot ongoing connectivity issues with the debit machine and software. The fix has unfortunately taken more time than expected but we have made significant progress and anticipate the system may be fully operational by the end of this week. Additionally, the DFAC now has approval to accept cash payments in order to mitigate the impact to Airmen if/when future system outages occur. The DFAC team has developed – and will implement – increased protocols at the registers to protect patrons and cashiers whenever cash payments are made.
Action Line Question: I have seen great examples by you and the command chief wearing your mask, but still see many incidents of airman both mil and civ not. Also, with school starting it would be in the best interest of the school kids for all GFAFB employees both mil and civ wear mask full time while in their work centers and facilities on base. You could remove mask while at your desk or office, but when you move about your work center you are masked up. This would help protect our school kids as well, keeping our airmen safe during the day will hopefully keep our kids safe as well. We wouldn't be taking the virus home. Please mandate mask, and encourage city leaders to mandate as well. Protect the airman that live in town.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you very much for your message and for your concern for our community during the coronavirus challenge. Chief Thuyns and I work hard to model the type of behavior we expect others to uphold. That said, masks are just one of the practices we use to defend against COVID. While we adhere to Air Force policy on the use of masks in the workplace, we depend on each Airman’s judgment in their off-duty hours. It might seem simple to “wear a mask if your duties require you to be within 6 feet of another person.” However, in practice, we know that some temporary “space bubble incursions” will occur during the course of a normal day. We will continue to model good behavior and expect others to follow suit. It is important. Thanks for your question.
Action Line Question: Is it possible to begin allowing us to complete the run portion of our fitness assessment before the muscular portions (push-ups and sit-ups) ? The governing regulation (AFI 36-2905) says that the muscular portions may be accomplished before or after the 1.5-mile run or 2.0-kilometer walk according to the installation FACs established procedures. I assume our base's procedures currently say that the run must be done last, but can that be adjusted? In a poll of my unit for example, many of us expressed that we would greatly prefer that we accomplish the run portion first. Additionally, when a few of us accomplished mock tests both ways over the course of a few days, we scored better accomplishing the run first and the muscular portions second. Is it possible to give us the choice which to do first? If the problem is the number of PTLs, if we can convince on of our unit PTLs to come provide extra support to the FAC on the day we test then could it be a possibility?
Wing Leadership Response: The Chief and I thank you for your recommendation, really appreciate your research of the AFI and that you ops-checked your idea before submitting it. As a result of your input our FAC team will now give testers the option of completing the run before or after the muscular portions of the test. Thanks again for your recommendation and keep sending in your ideas.
Action Line Question: Road conditions are very icy on base, we’ve seen multiple near accidents at multiple intersections, the streets in the neighborhoods are skating rinks and I have seen a few cars slide into or almost into snow banks at the end of J street. Sand and salt needs to be added to the roads before we have serious injuries and damage.
Wing Leadership Response: There’s no question this winter has brought challenges early in the season. For the month of December, the base received 28” of snow across 17 snow events. Combine those conditions with the base’s 24 miles of roads and 42 acres of parking, that is a lot of area to clean up after a severe swath of storms. There is a variance in the snow removal contract to allow them an extra day if the snowfall is more than 12 inches in 12 hours. The contractor reports their efforts monthly, and for the month of December, they used an entire semi-truck load of sand/salt mix on base while hauling 60 semi-truck loads of snow to the designated snow pile area. Most of their work is completed at night when the parking lots are empty. If your parking lot is still in bad shape, you can coordinate with the contractor at (701) 775-1402. They will give you a time they can get over there, of which your organization will need to relocate cars so they may clear the lot.
Snow-impacted and icy roads are a reality of North Dakota winters, so drivers need to slow down to keep control of their vehicles. Ice on walkways is a hazard, so treat it as such by paying attention, spreading ice melt on areas within your control and using slip-on ice-trek shoe spikes when necessary. We have a lot of winter left, so make sure you & your vehicles are in the best condition possible to tackle it head on. Take pride in being Warriors of the North!
Action Line Question: Col. Pringle, please consider closing the base due to inclement weather on weekends as you would on weekdays. There are still 24/7 facilities that are manned by civilian airmen as well as military. Civilians should not have to take sick leave or annual leave when weather conditions put their lives at risk while traveling to work.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for your question about how we make base closure calls in the event of severe weather. Our first priority in all cases is the safety and security of all our members and their families, while supporting our important missions on the base. We truly appreciate all the civilian employees and military members who are working on weekends and night shifts to keep us flying and fighting, and we understand that each weather call is unique. For instance, when severe weather events occur during normal business hours, we coordinate closely with the local school district to prevent unexpected closures on either side. For weekend calls, we use largely the same process (minus school coordination), but the decision is always based on safety. One of the most important factors we consider is the status of the roads, and specifically Highway 2. Although our defenders closely monitor this route, we also depend on North Dakota’s Department of Transportation to inform us when the road is closed. If Highway 2 is safe and passable, we expect to be able to operate safely in most conditions, but will always assess the conditions and the circumstances from the perspective of how best to safely accomplish our important missions. Again, thanks for your question, and please check out the video from Public Affairs which describes this process in a little more detail. Drive safely!
Action Line Question: It appears the cardio equipment upstairs at the fitness center has not been cleaned in a very long time. I spoke with a staff member and they said they are responsible for cleaning and that they have been cleaning the equipment but it's very obvious by the amount of sweat and dust that has accumulated that they have not been cleaned in a long time. Is it possible to get the machines actually cleaned?
Wing Leadership Response: Let me begin by thanking you for bringing this concern to our attention. The FSS team has completed a 100% check of all equipment within the Fitness Center and ensured they are clean and sanitary. I’m told that the Air Force Services Center requires that the equipment in the fitness center be cleaned once per shift, but with winter’s arrival, FSS has stepped up their spot cleaning checks to twice a day. Even with these increased checks, our FSS team can’t do this alone. We need everyone’s assistance to keep the fitness center equipment clean by wiping down the equipment after use with the wipes provided.
As a frequent customer in that area, I can say that my impression is that I’ve never observed a dirty machine like you describe. That said, I appreciate that when you saw something, you pointed out to the team for their attention. I recently stopped by the desk to compliment the staff for keeping the wipes well stocked, and will continue to monitor and report any further concerns.
Again, thank you for your concern and attention. Together, we can care for the great facilities we have here. See you at the gym!
Action Line Question: Dining 2.0, UGH, can we go back to AF Food service, much better when Airman are running the facility? Salad bar has empty bins, advertise different selections of bread for subs but never have a selection, always just wheat, or out of meats. Menu shows one thing but never have it. This is just some samples of the issues. Something needs to change, this isn’t taking care of the Airman!
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks very much for your observations on our food service. We’ve recently spent some time in the dining facility, and our perceptions have been quite a bit different. When Chief Thuyns and I dine in the DFAC, we consistently see great salad bar options, and lots of variety in the menu selections. There have been some recent changes in the inventory management processes in the DFAC, which we hope will decrease the incidence of menu mismatches you describe. Please keep the observations coming, and let us know if things aren’t getting better. We’re very proud of the Food 2.0 innovations, and believe that they are definitely in our best interests for the long run, and with feedback such as yours, the experience will continue to improve. Thanks again.
Action Line Question: We should just demo J Street and half of the roads in base housing if we are never going to fix them properly. Dirt roads would be smoother at this point.
Wing Leadership Response: We greatly appreciate elevating infrastructure needs; the safety of our personnel and their dependents is our top priority. Our Civil Engineer Squadron tirelessly works to ensure that our facilities and infrastructure are maintained and operating at peak performance. We are extremely proud of their hard work and professional execution of the recent repaving of our North Taxiway as well as Holzapple- and I-Streets. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the Privatized Housing agreement, the Wing cannot use traditional appropriated funds to repair property owned by Balfour Beatty Communities. Our Wing owns all land—within the perimeter—West of J-street. The revenue generated by our residents’ BAH ensures that BBC has sufficient funding to properly operate and maintain our homes and neighborhoods. We always encourage feedback to both the Civil Engineer Squadron (701-747-5210 or firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as to BBC (701-594-8003) to ensure hazardous facilities and surfaces are prioritized appropriately, properly maintained, and repaired when necessary.
Action Line Question: When can we see changes at BK in the Xchange? Poor mgt, poor service, not staffed, shake machine has been out for several months! We don't have much on this base to choose from, and would be nice if we had something that offered good service on a regular basis. Thanks You.
Burger King: A new Burger King manager was selected mid-August and shortly after two of the Foreman submitted notice they would be leaving. We have hired one new Foreman and are working on hiring another plus additional counter staff. Hiring for food here continues to be a challenge due to the drive from town, especially during winter months. To meet current needs, AAFES brought in a Foreman on temporary duty from Fort Sam Houston, Texas to assist until they get additional staff and get our new management fully certified according to Burger King standards. The replacement shake machine arrived in July parts issues and AAFES is working on a second replacement. The Exchange has made great strides diversifying the food selections here on base bringing in Steers, Little Bangkok, and Hunt Brothers Pizza all in the last 18 months. Other on base dining options include the commissary, dining facility, bowling center and the Northern Lights club.
Action Line Question: Hi! I live in the dorms at Barnes hall and it is so cold in my room since the heaters have not been turned units difficult to sleep and as a result my work performance suffers. I understand there is maintenance being done for which I am grateful that we will have improved hvac, but can you please make an effort to have the heaters switched on asap? From my understanding with speaking with the adl, all the heaters for base facilities are turned on at the same time. I just ask for there to be no delay between the completion of the maintenance and the turning on of the heaters. Thank you. Thanks for highlighting this concern about heating in Barnes Hall.
Wing Leadership Response: I’ve asked for an update from 319 CES on the Summer to Winter Transition Plan. Here’s a summary: Starting on or about 1 Oct each year the HVAC/R section begins transferring the base from comfort cooling mode to heating mode. This process normally takes the shop approximately 2 weeks to complete since there are 221 facilities having at least one boiler and air handler if not more. The normal goal is to be complete with the transition by 15 Oct. Shop personnel will do an eyes-on operational test for each and every boiler/air handling unit to confirm they have properly transferred. These are industrial systems and are unlike your basic home heating/cooling system which can be changed with a flip of the switch. Even though over 50% of our heating systems are automatically controlled by our EMCS program, each system still needs to be looked at for proper operation. The temperature swing during this time period makes it difficult to establish hard turn-on dates so there will inevitably be time where work areas will be too warm or too cold for short periods of time. Based on mission priorities and CES’s best judgement, the plan is to turn on heaters in the following order: Daycare/Youth Centers Mission Critical Facilities (B607 Command Post, B314 HFGCS) 24 hour Operation Work Facilities (B633 Fire Dept, B339 SFS, B542 69 RG, etc.) Dormitories and Lodging Customer related facilities (BX, Commissary, Dining Facility, Fitness Center, AFRC, etc.) Work Centers UPDATE: As of 7 October, 319 CES reports that all dormitories and lodging are in their winter configuration. Many thanks to the hard-working HVAC teams that destroyed our expectations to take care of our airmen as winter weather approaches. Winter is just about here! Be ready!
Action Line Question: What is the contact information for the Competition Advocate for solicitations made through the 319th CONF? Thank you.
Wing Leadership Response: Mr. Graham Pritchett is our local representative and can be reached at 701-747-5256. The ACC representative is Lt Col Aaron D. Judge (Deputy Director of Contracting, OL-ACC).at DSN 574-5372.
Action Line Question: Is there a place on base that I can go to have a Will drawn up?
Wing Leadership Response: Powers of Attorney can be accomplished anytime from 0800-1600, no appointment necessary. Wills and estate planning require an appointment, which can be scheduled by calling (701) 747-3606. You can get a jumpstart by completing an online worksheet, then providing the ticket number to the receptionist. The worksheet can be accessed through the legal assistance website located here: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil/lass/lass.html, upon login select “Legal Worksheets,” and complete as necessary. An alphanumeric code will appear upon completion of the worksheet, please save this code and provide it to the legal office receptionist via email at email@example.com or via telephone. Our office is located in Building 307, suite 201 (460 Steen Blvd).
Action Line Question: An individual asked whether privatized housing, BBC, required a specific type of power of attorney.
Wing Leadership Response: I apologize for any frustration you have experienced with your specific situation. You are correct in that our privatized housing partner requires a specific power of attorney to deal with issues related to housing when the primary lease signer is deployed or unavailable. The Legal Office and Civil Engineer Housing Management Office both have copies of a POA template specific to privatized housing available. We will continue to ensure that all members of our team are aware of the requirements and differences between the types of powers of attorney. If you have any further questions, please contact our government housing management office at 747-4580 or our legal office at 747-3603.
Action Line Question: I would like to take the chance to switch things up a little and send a positive comment.
When coming on base, Airman Small checked my ID. He is the perfect first face to see when coming in base. His attitude is positive. He is very welcoming. Every time he checks my ID to come in base, I leave the gate with a smile.
Great job Airman Small, I feel secure on base when your on duty and I have a smile!
Action Line Question: Why are our SFS Warriors not using the $1.6 mil main gate renovation gate house? I noticed during these cold wind chill mornings, they don't use the gate house to check ID cards. Seems a waste of $.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for your concern. You highlight a topic that comes up frequently when the command chief and I are in various forums and most recently on Christmas Day when he and I were out visiting Airmen working the main gate.
Without delving into sensitive and/or classified information, what I can tell you is current policy and guidance for our SFS Defenders from the Air Force and Air Combat Command is the following: To be visibly controlling access to the installation as a Force Protection deterrent.
More specifically, the current policy states, to the greatest extent possible, SFS entry controllers on the gates should be posted outside the gates as a “visible” deterrent.
Understanding how harsh the weather conditions here in North Dakota, the SFS commander has made an exception to allow our defenders on the gate to remain inside the gate facility when there is no activity and to step out when they see a person or vehicle approaching the gate. The SFS commander and I believe remaining inside the gate facility and utilizing the sliding windows incurs too much risk to base defense, and I have agreed that our defenders will exit the gate facility to engage all vehicles and personnel requesting entry to the base.
The command chief and I have been asked, “Why would the sliding ‘drive-up’ windows be installed at the main gate if they weren’t going to be used?” The short answer, is these type of military construction projects are planned 3 to 5 years in advance, and it’s difficult to speculate what the Air Force’s Force Protection posture and direction for Security Forces was at that time.
The command chief and I definitely do NOT feel the upgraded main gate and commercial vehicle inspection facility, as well as the new barrier system, are a “waste of money.” The new barrier system, renovated guard shacks, upgraded security systems, etc., significantly enhanced working conditions for our defenders while greatly improving our security posture. We saw first-hand last winter how challenging the weather conditions were for those working the main and commercial gates and are proud of the improvements executed last year.
However, after visits to the main gate, I’m convinced there are modifications that can be made to the main gate defender facility so defenders don’t have to walk out and around the front of the facility to check IDs. After my visit to the main gate on Christmas morning, I tasked our Civil Engineering Squadron leadership to come up with some designs that would allow better egress out of the main gate facility for our defenders. For instance, removing the sliding window and replacing it with a sliding door could be a possible COA. With that said, I’ll leave it to my CE experts to build and cost out viable designs. CE has stated they’ll have general design parameters and rough-order-of-magnitude costs to me by the end of January. More to follow!
Action Line Question: I would like base leadership to make a formal decision concerning carrying privately owned firearms (POF) on base. Per the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 Section 526, commanders have the authorization to make policies for carrying on base. DODD 5210.56 further defines where carry can happen in reference to federal buildings. My request is for Base leadership to redefine where a POF can be carried on base. I've also attached the policy that Col Murray instituted while at Nellis AFB. I don't feel it's necessary to carry on our person on base. But the ability to go to locations off base from on base is the issue. Currently anyone living in base housing already has the ability to travel to and from their approved storage location. The rest of us that don't live on have to travel back home to retrieve our POF. If a policy like Nellis' was instituted that would allow individual with permits recognized by the state of North Dakota to carry to and from base would be helpful. And if leadership wanted to take it a step further from what was instituted at Nellis. Concealed Carry permit holders tend to be at the top of rule followers and I would even bet that we would all be fine with registering as a CCW holder with SFS prior to carrying a POF to and from base.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for offering a different take on the topic of concealed carry on Grand Forks AFB. While this question has been previously answered on the Commander’s Action Line, I would like to address it again since yours is slightly different.
The command chief and I have had extensive discussions with our Group and Security Forces Squadron leadership teams on the topic of allowing the men and women at Grand Forks AFB to conceal carry. There have also been other discussions about the topic of allowing people entering the base to come on base without stopping at the visitor center, unloading their weapons and separating the guns and ammunition.
I won’t speculate what factors the Nellis AFB commander used to make his or her decision, but I can tell you that conceal carry of firearms on Grand Forks AFB is not something I am willing to entertain during the remainder of my time in command.
Perhaps a future wing commander may reconsider this decision, but for now I have no intention to allow conceal carry on Grand Forks AFB.
Action Line Questions: Is there a way to better train our defenders on base policies that change often; more specifically, motorcycle safety? As a Motorcycle Safety Representative, I have to know AFI 91-207 (The U.S. Air Force Traffic Safety Program) in and out. I have been contacted numerous times about riders being stopped at the gate for personal protective equipment (PPE) "violations" when considering retro-reflective/brightly colored outer garments. I have been stopped for the same "violation" and now carry a copy of the AFI in my bike to show the base defenders when questioned. With the installation not having a supplement, the items referenced are merely encouraged, not required. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for the suggestion of adding a supplement to the AFI regarding personal protective equipment. While the addition of a supplement is a way to address this it also adds a layer of tracking and updating for records management. Bottom line … there may be a better way.
The Chief and I will work with Security Forces to determine the best way to assess your concern and find a good way ahead.
Action Line Question: I have a suggestion to modify the current Installation Deployment Plan to allow deploying members who are deploying with a weapon to be authorized to transport that weapon(s) from the LRS armory to the airport in their POV. Currently, it states that the member's UDM must transport the weapon for the member in a GOV from the vault to the point of embarkation. This does not make sense. The member has already been trained on that weapon. There is no ammo with the weapon, and it is cased and locked. The weapon poses no threat to anyone without ammo. As well, once the member departs the installation, that same weapon that had to be transported in a GOV, may go into civilian aircraft, off base hotels, taxis, shuttles, etc. We ensure members are lawfully allowed to be issued a weapon prior to weapons qualification. It seems our attitude towards firearms is extremely liberal, considering we are members of the Armed Forces. If it is an accountability issue, then that argument doesn't stand up either. The other items that deployers are issued do not have to be transported in a GOV, i.e. gas mask, battle rattle, etc. Those items are serially controlled and we rely on the professionalism and integrity of the member to properly transport, maintain and return all gear to LRS upon return from any deployment.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for the great suggestion! I can relate to your perspective. We entrust our Airman with safe and responsible handling and accountability of their weapons and mobility gear during much of their deployment travels. The 319th Mission Support Group and my legal team in JA are researching your suggestion. We want to ensure we fully understand all the legal aspects (federal, state & local laws, DoD Instructions, AFIs, etc.). Moreover, I want to understand the rationale behind our current concept of operations. Following this exhaustive review, the MSG commander will make a recommendation to me on the best way ahead. Stay tuned, more to follow...
Action Line Questions: Security Forces conducted a mandatory DEOCS in the fall of 2017, yet the results of that assessment were never released publicly because the results were reportedly unflattering to several senior leaders in the unit. As such, no changes were made and those identified as being toxic to the unit were left to continue being toxic. What's the point of doing these assessments if identified problems will be ignored or glossed over? Why does a leader's potential embarrassment trump the effective management of a unit?
Wing Leadership Response: Per DEOCS implementing instructions, your squadron commander is required to brief you (and his/her group commander) on the results of the DEOCS. The full reports are rarely “publicly released.” As someone who’s read many DEOCS reports, individual inputs in the anonymous comments can be more than just unflattering; they can also be unprofessional and, at times, unfair to those called out by name. Also, it could be possible for Airmen to identify those making anonymous comments simply by the nature of the comments themselves - above all, we want to protect the anonymous nature of these comments. With that said, it’s incumbent upon commanders to give a thorough review of their respective DEOCS … the good, the bad, and the ugly … to the Airmen of their squadrons. Transparency is key along with corrective action plans to address issues highlighted by the survey. DEOCS are a great way for squadron commanders to get at problems within their respective units in addition to building credibility with those they lead.
As it relates to your question regarding SFS, Maj. Rislin informed me DEOCS results were given in full to SFS senior leaders and then briefed to the squadron during commanders calls held on 9 & 11 January 18. If you think the leadership team overlooked an issue that you feel needs to be addressed, I encourage you to bring it to the attention of your chain of command, first sergeant, Chief Murray, or Maj. Rislin. I know they’d be interested in your feedback.
Action Line Question: With the security risks of using SSN and the AF adopting the DoD ID number why have we not fully adopted this at GFAFB? i.e. clinic's phone verification process, or MPFs forms.
Wing Leadership Response: Great question and the short answer is that while we as an Air Force are absolutely moving forward with trying to incorporate utilizing the DoD ID versus SSN, many of our information systems still have not caught up. This is an Air Force-level enterprise issue that’s being worked via different functional communities.
What I expect to see (and from what I’ve been told) is that sometime within the next 5 to 10 years we will have moved away from using a SSN in nearly all applications or forms that we regularly use.
Action Line Question: 319th Security Forces Squadron needs an anonymous Climate Survey. It seems like morale is very low and people are getting in trouble or going to mental health suddenly. This needs to be figured out immediately before something worse happens. The last survey, each person had a unique password so members felt they were not anonymous. This survey must be truly anonymous so airman that want to fill it out can openly discuss what is going on.
Wing Leadership Response: The DEOCS is a survey (voluntary participation) that is completely anonymous. There is no identifying information that correlates back to what a specific individual chooses to input into the survey. Also, there is an additional anonymity feature that if less than five individuals identify with a particular identified demographic area that is requested (male/female, rank groupings, etc.) the system will automatically mask that information and only include the data as part of the overall DEOCS report. That information cannot even be seen by the survey administrator.
Note: The only way an individual could be even vaguely identified in a DEOCS is if the member participating in the DEOCS provided self-identifying information within the comments section. An example would be them choosing to identify themselves by name or even by position but that would be based on what that member chose to write in the comment section and is not applicable to the survey system. The DEOCS survey itself is completely anonymous.
During last year's 2017 organizational assessments for the 319 ABW units, unit members were provided an individual access code that allowed them to access the DEOCS survey system as many times as necessary until they completed the entire survey. This allowed members the autonomy to take the survey at work or even from a home computer until they completed the DEOCS. Access codes were not specific to an individual nor were they tracked when provided to unit members. The access code was only related to entry into the DEOCS survey system. Once the survey was finished...the access code was no longer able to be used for survey entry purposes. It was NOT used for any type of tracking, solely for accessing the DEOCS system.
The use of individual access codes for DEOCS surveys was required for all of DoD at the time of the last organizational assessments but the use of single access codes has returned as a feature and can/will be utilized.
For the upcoming 2018 DEOCS surveys for Grand Forks AFB units, commanders/units will once again be able to have a single access code that will allow entry into the system for all unit members under the same access code. The survey itself will be the same upon entering but access will be via a single access code that has a specified number of allowance entries based on unit population that allows each unit member to access the survey once.
An organizational assessment for all 319 ABW units will occur in the upcoming months to ensure all commanders meet their assumption of command DEOCS requirement or annual DEOCS requirement.
Action Line Question: It would be awesome to have a base pond to fish at. It would be a great activity in the summer time to fish a little pond.
Wing Leadership Response: I’ve been to bases with base lakes/ponds, so I understand the question. Unfortunately, the cost to create a fishing pond would be prohibitive. We have many other projects we’re fighting to get resources for such as street resurfacing/repair, etc. The current reflecting pool north of the dining facility is incapable of retaining the quantity and quality of water & food stock needed to sustain fish and, due to its poor condition, is scheduled to be removed. The good news is that, within 20 miles of GFAFB, there are great fishing opportunities at Turtle River State Park (7 miles), the Grand Forks County Larimore Dam (12 miles), and the Red River of the North in Grand Forks (20 miles).
Action Line Question: The DFAC is hot, especially if you’re working in the back. Are there any plans to keep the crew cooled.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for raising your concerns about the temperature in the Dining Facility kitchen. Your FSS leadership team put “eye’s on” the situation so they could experience your concerns first-hand. While the kitchen temperatures seemed normal the day they visited, they did note how hot it can get working behind the serving line. While this seemed to be largely due to the nature of working in a dining facility (hot grills, steam tables, ovens, and other heat-generating equipment), we nevertheless engaged with Civil Engineering to verify that the existing HVAC system is working properly and to see if can be adjusted to provide more air flow to the serving area. If the existing system cannot accommodate the amount of heat generated, we will be looking at the feasibility of other project options to improve ventilation there.
Should you continue to experience excessive temperatures in the Dining Facility, I encourage you to notify your Facility Manager immediately and ask that he/she call in a work order to CE Customer Service. Letting them know your concerns right away will help CE to assess what is wrong and get it fixed. We have an awesome team of CE craftsmen who I know would move quickly to address your concerns.
Action Line Question: In regards to the new DFAC, are the same food lines available for mid-shift personnel?
Wing Leadership Response: Yes and as you’ve likely seen there are even more options available with the “grab n go” style shelf that didn’t previously exist for our off-shift personnel.
Action Line Question: Would it be possible to have the DFAC accept card payments instead of cash only? If that is not possible, could an ATM be placed in the DFAC to allow easier access to cash?
Wing Leadership Response: As we prepare to transition our Dining Facility to the Air Force Mandated Food Transformation 2.0 program, the acceptance of credit and debit cards is one of the improvements that many bases tout as a “win” for patrons of the DFAC.
I will absolutely look into the option of an ATM being placed in the Dining Facility.
Action Line Question: Can the BX get Burger King to fix the milkshake machine?
Wing Leadership Response: I’m a big fan of milkshakes too! The Exchange leadership team apologizes for the length of time that the milkshake machine has been down. The current machine was not able to be repaired and it was determined we would need a replacement. A replacement machine has been ordered and will be installed upon delivery to Grand Forks. AAFES is in the process of tracking the delivery of the machine. It was expected to arrive this month but has not yet been received. If there are any questions or concerns regarding Exchange Operations please feel free to email the General Manager, Brian M. Read at firstname.lastname@example.org
Action Line Question: I arrived at JR Rockers at 545 for first Friday. The food was gone and my husband said they had been out for some time. The staff just shrugged and said sorry when I asked them about it. Our club membership is supposed to cover the meal on First Friday but they ran out well before six? Last week, the youth center was closed for a down day and only certain members were allowed to use it yet I was still charged for the day. Is it normal for members to pay for services they can't actually use at GFAFB? This is 2 in 2 weeks and staff members seems to care less.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your inquiry regarding the food provided for Club members on First Friday. During First Friday events, appetizers are set out at 1600 until 1800. During the last event, 5 Apr, we had tremendous participation, which reflects the fun, family atmosphere that we’ve been working to create there. Unfortunately, the high volume of customers, combined with current limited club kitchen staff, made it a challenge to replenish the food in a timely manner. Our Club staff strives to provide excellent food and customer service, and we’ll be working to improve the timeliness of food at the next First Friday event.
As for the question regarding youth center services, that question has been asked and answered on the CC Action Line previously. You can go to the site, scroll down, and read previous questions and answers.
Action Line Question: Can we make the Express open 24 hours?
Wing Leadership Response: The Exchange takes in to consideration several factors in determining hours of operation in all of our facilities. Some of these factors are half-hourly sales, average customer count, historical sales data, current demographic data, etc. Based on that data, there is not a business case to be made to keep the Express open 24 hours a day. Right now, the Express is able to make money, a portion of which comes back to the base. If the Express were to be open 24 hours, it would lose money. We do offer unattended fueling 24/7 so customers always have access to vehicle fuel.
The Exchange can, however, adjust operating hours. What they need in order to justify any changes in hours is the foot traffic, customer count, and sales to make those changes. There has been a slight increase in sales from the renovation and we hope that the new “Be Healthy” area will lead to enough of an increase to justify the discussion of extending operating hours.
Action Line Question: Can we get 91 octane at the Express?
Wing Leadership Response: The cost of adding high octane fuel to the Express far outweighs any hypothetical return on investment. Note that premium (91 to 93 octane) fuel sales account for about 13% of total fuel sales in the US. Using that metric it would take about a year to sell through one full underground tank of premium fuel here at Grand Forks AFB. It’s just not a cost-effective investment.
Action Line Question: Why can’t we get men’s watches in the BX, or baby strollers and car seats? Thanks.
Wing Leadership Response: We do receive and sell men’s watches in the BX, but sales historically have been very low in comparison with the inventory investment. The same is the case for the strollers and car seats which were removed as part of the main store renovation this past year.
Shopmyexchange.com offers all of these items in a large assortment and orders can be picked up directly in the store for most qualifying items.
Action Line Question: Popeye’s, Chic-fil-A, Dunkin Donuts or other better food options in the BX?
Wing Leadership Response: We would all love to have a food court with multiple options to improve variety and curb appeal in the Exchange. The reality is that there is not enough of a population (demand) to support additional NBFF (National Branded Food Facilities). The Exchange is currently working with 3 concession food vendors to supplement the options here: Erbert and Gerberts (sandwich shop), Little Bangkok (Asian Cuisine), and Steers (Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Flavor). The Exchange team is always researching additional courses of action to further diversify food options for our Airmen.
In addition to the offerings at the Main Exchange there is the Bowling Alley, Commissary, Club, DFAC, and the Express. There are also Subway, Domino’s Pizza, and DQ within 5 minutes of the Main Gate. The ABW-AAFES team is always looking at ways to diversify food options, knowing that the demand for food is not unlimited and we don’t want to create capacity significantly greater than demand.
Specifically regarding Chic-Fil-A, the Exchange does not have an agreement with that company. The Exchange’s HQ Food Directorate has approached Chic-Fil-A on numerous occasions, but there has been no progress in getting them onto any installation.
As for Dunkin’ Donuts, there is no local source here in the area. Bismarck is the closest Dunkin’ location. AAFES is starting a new donut program in our Express which should launch within the next couple of weeks.
Action Line Question: Any way we can get JR Rockers to deliver to base housing? Since Dominos is the only one that delivers I would think it would be a huge money maker for FSS.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for your question! In speaking with Mr. Andy Pauley, the flight chief who overseas Rocker’s operations, we learned that years ago the base did try a food delivery service from JR Rockers.
It did not take off and, comparing “then and now,” most people that are ordering food in the evenings from JR Rockers are primary ordering wings and other appetizers and not pizza. Additionally, Hunt Brothers has been added as a pizza option and their sales have been very good.
The additional challenges of starting a delivery operation is that the Club would need to hire drivers whose sole job is to deliver food. Per his career-specific guidance on food operations, a driver is not permitted to conduct food prep or work in the kitchen for the food they deliver.
At this time, there’s not a business case to hire additional staff and start delivering food on base.
Action Line Question: The commissary has a lot of expired products can we work on this?
Wing Leadership Response: I have let Ms. Donna Shareif, commissary general manager, know this question came up in our all-call. She stated if you should find a product that’s past its posted expiration date, please let her know directly or one of the commissary staff and they will go and search to see if they have another product available for your needs.
Action Line Question: Can we increase the hours of the sandwich shop at the deli counter in the commissary as another food option? Additionally is there a way to ensure enough supplies, sides, condiments, etc. are on hand? It seems they are frequently running out. Love the sandwiches made there, just hoping supplies and hours can increase.
Wing Leadership Response: In speaking with our Commissary General Manager, Ms. Lori Looney, the Chief and I learned that the deli manager has been pretty short handed up until a few weeks ago, but has now been allowed to hire another person. With this additional person, she will be able to have more sandwiches/salads available in the grab-and-go case when there is no one in the deli. Another option would be to call or email a sandwich order prior to 6 p.m., and that sandwich can be made for early morning or after closing pick up.
Referencing the supplies/sides/condiments comment, Ms. Looney mentioned that the deli manager, Tammy, appreciated the feedback and will now ensure they keep a closer eye on the supply level, but, should they be out, please ask them at the counter, and they will take care of you.
Action Line Question: I have a suggestion for JR Rocker's - Food Delivery. This base has a lack of food options, particularly on the weekends and evenings. When my family and I arrived here, the only option available was Domino's, despite being in billeting and directly across the street from the club (which was closed that day). While the introduction of Little Bangkok and Erbert's and Gerbert's in the BX are good lunch options, people looking for breakfast or late-night options are kind of stuck unless they want to make their way to the dining facility. My idea is for JR Rocker's to begin offering food delivery. The first step would be to create a web site or even an app for people to view the menu, place their order, and pay for their food. If the person uses a smartphone, the app could be geared to deliver directly to the phone's location, which makes it simpler if the person is at work. Alternately, the website could also be specifically configured for PCs and/or mobile devices; whatever would make viewing, ordering, and paying simpler for the customer. An option is to require online payment of every order prior to delivery instead of requiring a delivery person to deal in cash. This app or website would be connected to a Point of Sale system located in the kitchen. Upon the order coming in and verification of payment, the food would be prepared and then handed to a delivery person who would take it to the customer. The benefits of this is that JR Rocker's would only need to keep the kitchen open for this service, reducing the cost of having to bring in additional staff or even open the dining room. Obviously, delivery personnel would have to be hired, and I suspect that those positions may be the largest sticking point.
Wing Leadership Response: This is obviously a well-thought out suggestion, and I thank you for taking the time to submit it. We’re in a time of significant transition when it comes to food offerings on the base. The DFAC Food 2.0 upgrade will open up the DFAC to all base personnel this summer. Also, on June 7, Hunt Brothers Pizza in the Express will come on line. Additionally, as of a few weeks ago, you can go to the Commissary and order sushi! I firmly believe we need to get through this transition, stabilize the array of food offerings on the base, assess what the demand signal looks like across a 24-hour spectrum, and then determine if we think a delivery option from Rockers could be successful.
Of note, Burger King has been opening up at 6 a.m. for breakfast for the past five months for those looking for another breakfast option.
Action Line Question: Suggest restructuring portions of the BX building as a "one stop shop" meeting place for shopping, eating and events. A laser tag or mini golf room could be built with a small party room for hosting of children's events. This increased foot traffic will likely boost number of customers to the barbershop, BX, food court. As it stands GFAFB is fragmented in its services and parents are less likely to use multiples of these separated services in one trip versus if it was in one building
Wing Leadership Response: Keep the suggestions coming!! What I can tell you is that next Thursday, 1 March, during my Facebook Live event, I’ll be partnering with the Northern Regional Vice President of Operations for AAFES out of Dallas-Fort Worth. We will be discussing changes across a wide range base AAFES services in the coming months. We’ve got significant improvements on the way!
If you haven’t taken the time to go to the Exchange and meet our new General Manager, Ms. Annette Montgomery, I’d encourage you to do so. Ms. Montgomery is fired up about her role as the GM and is very receptive to feedback from Airmen, Civilians, and family members from across the installation.
Action line Question: Please help to protect our Airman's hard earned dollars! AAFES hiked the military haircut price by 25.5% in the last few weeks up to $15. The average price downtown is roughly $15. Comparable civilians pricing should not be used as justification as the average civilian male receives haircuts every 3 months versus the military male who must by AFI at a minimum must receive a haircut every 2 weeks. This is why AAFES barbershops are discounted. A worthy note, Ellsworth AFB has almost identical pricing downtown and AAFES charges $9.95. Thank you for any help on this matter.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for allowing me to bring this up to Ms. Annette Montgomery. The short answer is that this is not the ladies at the barber shop’s fault. Ms. Montgomery told me that the signs out front were wrong and that the issue should be fixed by now.
She did inform me however, that the ladies operating the barber shop operate the shop on behalf of the company and do not have a ton of flexibility with the pricing.
Action Line Question: People have brought serious personnel matters happening at the Child Development Center to concerned offices, but nothing was done. No idea if those concerns were brought to previous base commanders attention if it was his concern, but someone needs to look at management actions in that center. Staff ratio is always a concern in any CDC, but the one here is different because recently, staff comes and goes at a rate that is unbelievably fast. Please look at the record numbers of staff hiring and quitting for the last 18 months in that center and you will wonder why management can't keep people. Possible reasons: management is playing favorites, implementing procedures and rules and policies out of whims. Just recently, favorites were offered and given GS positions, even when qualifications are not met, just waived. And this is not just for 1 or 2 favorite staffs, look at the papers processed for GS positions for the last 3 months, and you'll wonder, why the rush, and why were they offered instead of it opened to everyone for equal opportunity? Why can they waive some requirements upon promotion dates and just meet requirements after the fact? Why can't they do that to everyone? Why are some favorites not suspended after a reportable incident? Why is management just concerned with supporting the mission at the expense of ignoring personnel concerns? Because she said she can just do what she wants?? And they're giving out GS positions? Why? Because they are leaving very soon, moving to another place, and just want to make sure their favorites are in safe positions when they leave. When there are incidents involving children happen in CDC, various offices and agencies are of immediate help. But when personnel are hurt, kicked, slapped, spat at by kids and all management can do is give you more training and move you in another classroom - who will come for immediate help? So much has happened in that facility, staff has gone through so much with management, which were brought up and discussed with the flight chief and HR and cpo, yet, not one soul from higher ups came around, to ask, even just 1 staff, how are things going at CDC. Despite and in spite these personnel concerns, the children are well taken cared of for sure, by the same people who are experiencing disgust, frustration, and partiality from management. Not sure what air force values they represent, but can tell they ain't honorable. What's the purpose for this writing? Because the offices concerned that heard these didn't do anything (except union rep office who took management attention on giving 15minute breaks - though only to GS, not everyone). It has to stop. They have to stop. They shouldn't do and be like this to places where they are assigned. Not in the air force, not in any organization, not to any one person. They have to be retrained on values of transparency, impartiality, equal opportunity and personnel relations. Something has to be done, before that facility runs out of concerned and seasoned staff. Change is wanted here badly, leadership change, please. These may sound too presumptuous and as sumptuous, but hope you find it no harm, as the new base commander, am sure you'd be most welcome to visit the facility, and maybe talk to 1 or 2 of the staff, without presence of management, hoping the staff will talk and validate these concerns, without FEAR.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for taking the time to bring this to my attention. Let me begin by stating that the 319th Reconnaissance Wing leadership is committed to ensuring that we promote fair workplace conditions, whether it comes to hiring practices, awards selection, promotions or discipline. The members of our community deserve a fair workplace environment, and we are committed to ensuring this remains the case.
We have worked with our Force Support Squadron Leadership to address your concerns.
Please be aware, any concerns or issues employees bring to NAF HR, Civilian Personnel Office or FSS leadership will be addressed using all avenues available. I highly encourage you to use the formal or informal grievance process to bring any concerns and issues to leadership. The FSS Director has established an “open door” policy to allow these issues to be brought directly to his attention and allow for swift resolution to any issues or concerns. Additionally, please remember that you have the option of speaking with the 319th Reconnaissance Wing’s Inspector General or Equal Opportunity Office.
With specific attention to the GS hiring process addressed, eligibility and qualification requirements for any Wing APF positions cannot be waived. This is not an option within the hiring manager’s purview. It is not something that can occur locally in the Civilian Personnel Office. All hiring actions are processed via Air Force Personnel Center with the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) doing the final quality check on eligibility and qualifications. Additionally, in accordance with National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2018, Child Development Center positions, those which are in direct contact with children, are eligible for a hiring practice called Direct Hire Authority (DHA). In May 2018, AF/A1C issued the DoD policy guidance memorandum strictly indicating any DoD qualification standards, selective placement factors, pre-employment requirements, and/or competencies identified as necessary for appointment must be met before appointment. Hiring practices for GS positions are governed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and there is no room for deviation.
I asked the Civilian Personnel Office to review all GS civilian hiring actions for the Force Support Squadron over the last 18 months. Part of that review was to confirm that we followed all mandated hiring procedures. The 319 FSS and Civilian Personnel Office has met all hiring requirements as outlined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC).
Lastly, I highly encourage you to reach out to the FSS Director if you have ideas or suggestions as to how to make leadership and organizational policies more effective.
Thank you again for bringing this to my attention and I highly encourage you to continue bringing concerns and issues to Wing, Group and Squadron leadership.
Action Line Question: I was charged the regular amount at the youth center for the first pay period in April. However, they were closed on Friday and I was unable to take my child. Only RG and mission essential were allowed to use the service they paid for. Is this going to be corrected?
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your question regarding Child & Youth Services during the 319th ABW Family Day on 29 March. This year General Holmes, Commander Air Combat Command (COMACC), altered the ACC Family Day program to provide Wing Commanders the option of identifying Family Days throughout the year based on goals they set for their wings and staffs. The first paragraph of his 24 Oct 18 memo to Wing Commanders titled “ACC Family Days for CY 2019” states as follows:
“1. In appreciation of the tremendous efforts and sacrifices you have made, and will continue to make, I am designating 5 Jul, 29 Nov, 26 Dec, and 31 Dec as ACC Family Days. These dates coincide with Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day, respectively. As we discussed during the recent Commanders and Chiefs conference, Wing and NAF Commanders have the option of adding additional days throughout the year, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day, based on the goals you have set for your wings and staffs.”
IAW this guidance, I designated 29 March 2019 as a Family Day for 319th ABW personnel, corresponding with the goal of timely submission of 400 wing-wide SSgt EPRs. During Family Days (and all federal holidays) the School Age Care (SAC) program is closed except for children of mission essential personnel. As outlined in the Grand Forks Youth Programs SAC Program 2018-2019 Parent Agreement, “there are no fee adjustments based on closure for federal holidays or circumstances beyond the program’s control resulting in temporary closure.” In this case, Family Days are, and always have been, considered a temporary closure and are treated the same as a federal holiday for billing purposes.
Bottom Line: 29 March 19 was a Family Day, granted by me, based specifically on authority from COMACC. COMACC actually identified fewer Family Days in the annual ACC Family Day memo so as to give Wing Commanders the opportunity to identify our own locally. There will NOT be more Family Days this year than last. The only difference is that we get to select some at the wing level vice all Family Days being set by ACC.
For clarity, going forward, we’ll ensure we identify these goal-based days off as “Family Days” vice Goal Days. I hope that will avoid any confusion in the future.
Action Line Question: Why is the CDC closed on Friday? It’s not a holiday, it’s a reward for those who put in the work to meet a goal. Many of those responsible were civilians and it almost seems like they are being punished. They either have to spend a day of vacation or find and pay for a babysitter. I feel like if the CDC is being closed on a non-holiday, then parents deserve a pro-rated refund.
Wing Leadership Response: The efforts of civilian employees to help reach the wing-wide goal to submit the 400 EPRs by 1 April is absolutely noted and appreciated. Due to limitations involving DoD civilians, we’ve asked supervisors to consider approving leave liberally for these employees.
The decision to minimally man the Child & Youth Programs for the “Goal Day” on Friday, March 29 was thoroughly discussed by leadership before taking effect. The Child Development Center will be open for those who have mission essential letters on file or families assigned the 69RG, as these individuals will be working on the 319 ABW awarded goal day.
The Child & Youth Programs are vital parts of the entire mission on Grand Forks Air Force Base. While the compensated day was awarded to active duty for timely submission of Staff Sgt. EPRs, the Child & Youth Program staff played a direct role by providing trusted care for our youngest warriors. In addition, many of the CYP staff are dependents of active duty personnel who are likely to benefit in spending quality time with their families and duty member.
The Child & Youth Programs Family Child Care Providers will continue to provide care on March 29 for hourly and drop in care services. We understand the impact in our decision in supporting all Grand Forks AFB Airman (active duty and civilian) and will continue to work with our leaders to ensure all efforts are recognized while maintaining the focus of our mission.
Action Line Question: I received the survey for the CDC and I have a question, Is the reason headquarters is giving us a Family Day for us to spend time with our family or to drop the kids off and have a "me" day? I understand the need for childcare for mission essential parents whose spouse or significant other may also have to work, but not for those that choose just not to spend time with their family. I hear people complain about deployments, TDYs, etc taking away time from their family, but then when given a free day off of work to be with their family they choose not to. Maybe they could swap babysitting with their neighbor.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for asking your question and taking the time to lay out some concerns you have. The Command Chief also received and took the survey as he has young children in both the CDC and Youth Center. I believe it’s important for you and all our Airmen and Families to know that we have not made a formal decision on this topic yet. The Mission Support Group and our Force Support Squadron as still reviewing the survey data to provide me a recommendation on this topic.
We are committed to providing predictable childcare for those Airmen who cannot take part in the ACC Family Day and must work due to military necessity. While babysitters could be an option for some, we realize that the Airmen utilizing the CDC and Youth Center have built trust with the professionals who watch their children and may not wish to seek out separate child care.
Expect that a decision will be made well before the next ACC Family Day on 25 May.
Action Line Question: The CDC is closed on Friday, 16 Feb, for an ACC down day. I called and asked if this wing has alternate care for individuals’ children since the mission doesn't stop. I was informed there is not a contingency available. They do have the option to call and coordinate care through home providers on base, but again, this is not a guarantee. Does the wing know this is standard ops for the CDC? If not, please intervene and provide some sort of avenue to ensure the individuals affected have a solid backup to their already established care. I know during storms there is a storm essential list that the CDC provides support for. Can we make the same type of plan for down days but have it pre-coordinated through the squadron commanders for verification on a case-by-case basis? I have seen this at other baes and it works quite well.
Wing Leadership Response: Great question. You’re correct…other installations have addressed this very issue. In response to this question, the Commander and I sat down with our Mission Support Group Commander and Superintendent and have decided to conduct some research in the near future.
For those who use the Youth Center and Child Care Center (as I do), within the coming month you will see a survey asking parents a few questions (i.e. Do you work Family Days?, etc.). We are hoping to gain enough data to determine if there’s a case to be made for offering Youth Center and CDC services on these days. Please participate in the survey. We’ll follow up with results.
The Commander and I are also aware that we only have two Family Child Care (FCC) in-home providers at this time. We have asked our Mission Support Group leadership to take a look at how we are marketing this program to see if we can increase those offering in-home FCC services.
Action Line Question: Can you change the hours of no parking in front of Twining School to align with the hours that the school doors open? Currently the no parking hours start at 0730 however, the school does not open its doors until 0740. Earlier this winter, on 2 separate occasions, I was told by SFS that I couldn't be sitting in the lane while I waited for the doors to open. The first time it was 0735 and the second was 0733. On the second occasion I was told that if I was there again I would be ticketed. I watch many other people park there and they are never approached by SFS but they all drive much nicer vehicles than I do. My biggest complaint comes from this morning, I know it was "Pastries with Parents" this morning but that shouldn't change the fact that the sign says no parking. Due to mission requirements, I was not able to attend the event with my child and upon arrival at the school, I could not even drop my child off close to the door. There were many cars parked in the lane at 0745, SFS was on scene but doing nothing about it. SFS was right to have me move as I was waiting in a no parking zone during the times listed but their decisions to pick and choose when they will enforce the rules and with who is not right. Simply changing the time to 0740 will allow people to wait with their children on cold morning and leave the no parking zone on time without breaking the rules.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns on a situation that clearly bothered you and one that may have also impacted other parents of children who attend Twining Elementary.
The Commander and I--and our spouses--also drive our children to Twining each day and pick them up in the afternoon, so we are very familiar with the long lines you experience most days at Twining.
We will engage with the local Grand Forks District School Board who oversees nearly every facet of what transpires around the school--and roads adjacent to it--about the possibility modifying the “No Parking” restriction. More to follow!
Action Line Question: Can an unaccompanied Airman live in base housing instead of the dorms?
Wing Leadership Response: Unaccompanied airmen who are assigned to the dorms should check with their First Sergeants and Airman Dorm Leaders (ADL) for procedures on moving out of the dorms. In general, Air Force policy directs most unmarried Airmen in CONUS to live in the dorms based on their rank and time in service: E1-E3, and E4 with less than 3 years’ time in service. Base housing is not typically a substitute for the dorms. Once Airmen are released from this requirement, they can explore other living arrangements, to include privatized housing on base. Again, please consult your ADL or Shirt for more details.
Action Line Question: The sewage smell problems were brought up during the IG visit. Housing bathrooms are unusable due to the smell and toxic fumes lingering in the houses. When is this going to be addressed. I'm tired I'd spending all my BAH to have work orders ignored and constant sewage smells in my house. Maybe I should direct the plethora of complaints to my Congress as contracted base housing is already getting a lot of attention.
Wing Leadership Response: A few weeks ago, per SecAF/CSAF direction, we contacted every resident in privatized base housing asking about health and safety concerns. Reviewing the data collected from our 547 houses, we noted that there were 3 households that complained of the type of smell you reference. Typically, this is caused by iced-over sanitary stack vents. During extended periods of very cold weather, sewer gas containing water vapor will condense, then freeze to form a frost layer in the exposed uninsulated end of the vent pipe. This frost layer can seal the pipe partially or fully, forming a plug. Hard, drifted snow also can plug the end of the vent pipes. Sewer pipes have to be vented to allow air into the pipe for proper water flow and to allow the release of sewer gases. The problem is corrected by getting on the roof and removing any ice/snow from the vent stack.
After removal of the obstruction, BBC has now been inserting copper pipe skewers into the vent stacks to help prevent them from icing back over again.
I’ve been told that all of these cases have been resolved by BBC maintenance.
With that said, if you have not received the resolution you desire from BBC, I strongly encourage you to discuss with your chain of command, to include your First Sgt and Sq/CC. Moreover, I’d be more than happy to highlight your specific issue to Balfour Beatty leadership and personally advocate on your behalf should you feel comfortable providing me the particulars.
Also, on 13 March, I had Public Affairs send an email to the entire base informing Airmen that AF leadership stood up a new call center, should you wish to escalate severe housing issues. Though we encourage members to try to resolve any housing disputes through the chain of command, the new call center provides another avenue for members to voice their concerns when they feel they are being ignored or are uncomfortable with approaching others at the installation with their concern.
USAF Housing Call Center: 1-800-482-6431 (Note: This call center is not a substitute for the installation level processes for initiating maintenance calls.)
Finally, you ALWAYS have unfettered access to your Members of Congress should you wish to engage them with your concerns. You should always feel completely comfortable exercising that right should you feel it’s necessary.
Action Line Question: How does BAH rates drop for new members who PCS in with or without dependents when our rental prices as a whole have not decreased at all? We are not capturing the high end market of rental rates for Grand Forks which DTMO should receive from our HMO. We have to ensure the data we collect is collaborated with property managers in Grand Forks and verified with service members. Not including rental rates from the more expensive areas of Grand Forks does a huge disservice to the BAH rates for enlisted and officers.
Wing Leadership Response: As you’ve alluded to in your question, the office of primary responsibility for data on housing resides within our Civil Engineering Squadron’s Housing Management Office (HMO). Each Spring, our team from the HMO office goes out to Grand Forks City and surrounding towns and surveys a wide range of categories of dwellings. What I can tell you is that this process is very labor intensive and, in the end, is merely a recommendation for what we, locally, feel is appropriate.
The following hyperlink provides a great description and breakdown of how the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) calculates BAH: https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/Docs/perdiem/browse/Allowances/BAH/Component_Breakdown/2018-BAH-Rate-Component-Breakdown.pdf
A synopsis is…..data is collected annually for over 300 Military Housing Areas (MHAs) in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. The 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates are based on the current local median market rent and average household utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer) in each MHA and incorporates a four percent out-of-pocket amount. Collectively, these components establish the total housing costs for six housing profiles (based on dwelling type and number of bedrooms) in each MHA. Total housing costs are used to set the BAH rates for service members, both with and without dependents, for each pay grade.
Action Line Question: More motorcycle storage space for airmen living in the dorms. Currently, there is one shed in the Kollinger/Eieleson parking lot, to service Kollinger, Eielson, Bunch, and eventually Grey Halls. There is only space to fit about five bikes in there, while still being able to remove them.
Wing Leadership Response: Please reference the previous action line question answering this question regarding Airmen who own motorcycles in the dorm and winter storage.
Action Line Question: I hear Gray Hall may open soon, but no one can move in?? What unit will eventually move in, and when?
Wing Leadership Response: Please see the answer to Action Line question asked previously.
Action Line Question: More structures to allow airmen residing in the dorms to store their motorcycles to keep them out of the weather.
Wing Leadership Response: While looking at the structure in questions, the ranking Airmen Dorm Leader (MSgt Brammer) has identified two other buildings (approximately 1,700 SF total for all three) near the dorms that are underutilized and could be cleaned up and be made ready to store motorcycles. The Real Property rules allow the Wing Commander to reclassify these spaces for use by unaccompanied personnel when living in the dorms. We can begin to clean out these spaces and prepare the process for re-classification by the Wing Commander at the upcoming Aug/Sep Facility Board if needed. The buildings would then be locked up to control access, and paperwork would be prepared to validate the need. No new construction would be required.
Action Line Question: I hear gray hall may be opening soon, but it will not be furnished?? Do you know what squadron will move in, or will it sit empty. Thank you.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for allowing us to give an update on this topic. We are currently in the process of purchasing furniture for Gray Hall. The current plan is that Airmen living in Bunch Hall would move into Gray Hall as it’s the next dormitory to be renovated. The earliest the Gray Hall furniture will be in place in early CY 2019.
Action Line Question: The messaging for FSS is lacking in regards to the gym facilities. I went with my baby at 9am on Monday 9/18/19 to work out in the small area near the children’s section, only to find it was being closed down and equipment moved around. Had I known this in advance, I would not have gone all the way over there and gotten my child in and out of his car seat and stroller. I asked if the closure had been posted anywhere online and was told no, there was a note on the door. There was not a note on the door where I came in closest to the pool.
On a second issue, the automatic doors do not work on the pool side of the gym. It is difficult when taking a stroller in and out, and I would think it very challenging if someone was in a wheelchair.
Wing Leadership Response: I first want to thank you for the information you’ve provided about the gym. Our state of the art sports, fitness and aquatics center is something we pay close attention to at Grand Forks Air Force Base, as it is crucial to the well-being of our personnel and their families.
To address your first piece of input, we are now working with fitness center and public affairs staff to better communicate closures, maintenance, and any other changes that could affect regular use of the facility. If you haven’t already, I recommend following our base websites/social media platforms listed below to keep as informed as possible.
GFAFB Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grandforksairforcebase
FSS Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/319FSS/
App: Search “Grand Forks AFB” in the app store
As for the automatic doors on the east entrance, this is clearly a maintenance issue that can be addressed immediately. Our fitness center building custodians are now working with experts at the Civil Engineer Squadron to schedule site surveys and door repairs.
Again, thank you for notifying us about these issues, and please never hesitate to reach out and assist in improving our base and its facilities.
Action Line Question: Is there a way we can get a net purchased/placed on the tennis court adjacent to the dorms across from the fitness center? There's a plethora of basketball courts around the base already (gym/ housing) but no tennis courts with a net currently. With all the fitness center updates (Alpha Warrior, Rock Wall, etc.) can we please designate a small amount in comparison I'm sure, to place a net/include tennis in the list of intermural sports and maintain?
Wing Leadership Response: In short….ABSOLUTELY! Thanks for bringing this to our attention as we were unaware that we had tennis courts on the base that were in disrepair or unusable. I’ve asked my FSS leadership team to go and see how many other of our outdoor recreation facilities may need improvements and immediately begin to fix them.
Action Line Question: For those of us who do PT tests in the wintertime, it can be very difficult to do the running portion on the inside track due to the proximity to the heaters and the dryness in the air. Is there any way this could be mitigated somehow to make it less dry? Also, I've heard that the running track was also originally incorrectly measured on the innermost line of the track (instead of the middle of the innermost lane), which resulted in an extra half lap being required on our PT tests instead of the regular 15. Is this true, and if so, is there any way this could be fixed to be more accurate?
Wing Leadership Response: First, given that I run the indoor track at least once per week, I, too, am aware of how dry the air can be in that part of our Fitness Center. While I don’t have an answer to this portion of your question, I will ask.
As to the second part of your question, I’d like to take a minute to elaborate.
When I arrived, I confirmed the indoor track was measured in accordance with AF guidance. Specifically, we were directed to use measurement instructions from NCAA Track and Field standards. These regulations mandate the track “shall be measured 30 centimeters (11.8 in) outward from the inner edge of the track.” Shortly after my arrival, my Executive Officer provided me some research compiled by SSgt Biersner, 319 MDSS. SSgt Biersner studied the NCAA guidance along with the uniqueness of our indoor track at GFAFB. His conclusions were as follows:
• Proximity of the metal safety rail prevents testers from running on intended course
• Inability to run on intended course unfairly increases overall distance for testers
• Sharp curved courses have effects that reduce sustained velocity and increase lap times
I personally went to the indoor track and validated that the metal safety rail is truly an obstruction that makes maintaining a distance of 30 cm (11.8 in) from the inner edge of the track while running the test extremely difficult, if not impossible. In his presentation, SSgt Biersner provided the following recommendation:
• Proposed measurement be at least 70 cm (27.9 in) away from innermost curb
• Proposed measurement for walk be 50 cm (19.7 in) away from innermost curb
Chief Geary (FSS) then worked with AF/A1 in the Pentagon to determine if I had the authority to implement the above recommendations. AF/A1 confirmed that, as the Wg/CC, I did have the authority to deviate from NCAA standards to accommodate for the unique layout of our indoor track. On 31 Aug 17, I approved the above recommendations for implementation on the GFAFB indoor track. On 11 Sep 17, I signed the official memorandum and the track was re-measured within a few weeks, essentially shortening the existing 1.5-mile run by approx. one-quarter of a lap.
Action Line Question: Why does a 24-hr gym not have 24-hr access to the locker rooms/shower facilities? There is zero incentive for shift workers to utilize the facility if they cannot shower after a workout and report to/go back to work.
Wing Leadership Response: The primary reason is safety on several different levels and to be honest, your questions and some recent events have led the Commander and I to take a holistic look at our Fitness Center operations. In full disclosure, the rationale that we currently use to keep the locker room closed after hours could also apply to the entire Fitness Center.
While it has been mentioned that member’s utilizing the locker room after hours could potentially slip and fall causing injury, the Commander and I both believe that there is an equally high chance that someone would be injured weightlifting or running on the track.
Without a “manned” presence in the Fitness Center during the late night/early morning hours, this is causing the Commander and I to take a really deep look into how we are managing risk in the Fitness Center after hours. The FSS is currently updating the Deliberate Risk Assessment Worksheet for Fitness Center operations. It is due to me 1 March. After reviewing this product, we’ll make decisions about what our next steps will be in the Fitness Center
We really appreciate your perspective and feedback in bringing this up.
Action Line Question: Has there been any progress in allowing civilians access to their own locker at the base gym? I know this is not just a base policy, but couldn't the Wing Commander waive this policy?
Wing Leadership Response: The Commander and I have heard this question before. First, from the research we’ve done, we see nothing in AFIs that prohibits AF civilians from using personal use lockers. This appears to have been a base policy. HOWEVER, during that research, we discovered AFI strictly PROHIBITS personal use lockers at our Fitness Centers for ANYONE. In order to designate lockers for personal use, the Commander has submitted a waiver package to ACC and the Air Staff for approval. That waiver left the wing a month ago. Should I receive approval on the waiver, both our military and civil servants will have access to lockers.
Action Line Question: Can we get an update/timeline on when the rock wall will be operational again??
Wing Leadership Response: The Commander and I are both excited for the “Wall” to come back up so we, too, can get certified and take part. Unfortunately, the contract for the required periodic inspection of the Wall expired. From a safety and risk mitigation standpoint, we had to take the Wall out of service until it could be inspected.
I’m happy to report that our Force Support Squadron is partnering with our Contracting Flight to craft a new support contract to perform required Wall inspections. The new contract is in work, and we are fairly confident that the Wall will be back up and running by mid-to-late April. While we wish it were sooner, we are happy to finally have a long-term contract in the works to avoid this lapse in the future.
Action Line Question: At the multiple bases I have PCS, TDY, or deployed to the gym had a signup process with safety briefings of all exits, 9-11 phones, AEDs, emergency exits, and a CAC scanner at each door. Instead of making this base miserable for odd shift workers by removing the 24/7 gym, how about remove the duck tape from the gym doors, and troubleshoot the CAC reader on the front door instead of having "duck tape 24/7 access".
Wing Leadership Response: As we discussed at my All Call, I’m absolutely committed to 24/7 access at the Fitness Center as is FSS leadership. As a career 23-year aircraft maintenance officer who always led Airmen working across 3 shifts, I know how important Fitness Center access is to our swing and mid-shift Airmen. You noted in your question multiple ways in which we can reduce risk (safety and security) at the Fitness Center during the times it’s unmanned by FSS personnel. I want to ensure we’re properly mitigating risk and, to that end, my FSS is performing a formal Risk Assessment, which is due to me at the end of February. At that time, they also will present me with options to either repair the existing CAC reader system or invest in a new system. In the interim, we will continue with current operations. Moving forward, my goal is to continue to provide you 24/7 access while smartly mitigating risk and providing you and your families top-notch services.
Action Line Question: Is there any discussion about making improvements to the fitness center, specifically the weight room areas? I've noticed that they have been adding new equipment and weight machines but it is just becoming more crowded and uncomfortable. Is it possible that we could convert the gym utilized for cross fit/volleyball, into one large weight room? Similar to how Whiteman AFB fitness center is set up. Also, could they invest in more, smaller weights? There is only a tiny rack of 5-25lb dumbbells with mostly 1 set of each size, which has been too limited in my opinion since the year that I've been here.
Wing Leadership Response: The FSS had previously evaluated re-converting the volleyball and tactical fitness room for other purposes; however, this area is currently heavily utilized by ALS, Honor Guard, and multiple squadrons across the base for PT. Additionally, the area is also used for volleyball and intramural sports. Due to the heavy utilization by these customers, we decided not to convert this area into a larger weight room.
In an effort to not overcrowd the main weightlifting room, additional lighter weights have been strategically placed throughout the facility. These rooms include the following: upstairs cardio room, functional fitness room, aerobic room (racks 1 & 2) and the parent-child care area.
Action Line Question: Suggestion - Turf the inside of the outdoor track (other bases have already been transformed), this will provide more outdoor activities during spring, summer and fall seasons. Perhaps safer because the ground will be flatter thus eliminating potential injuries. For example: Games/actives-soccer, flag football, Frisbee. And maybe turf the softball field similar to Osan AB, minimum maintenance and better/safer for players. The gated area will need to be locked to prevent tampering/vandalism.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for the suggestion and it allowed for the Commander and I to “go and see” at the track. In doing some research on how often this “turfed” area would be used as compared vs the cost, it just doesn’t make sense fiscally to pursue it at Grand Forks.
However, due to your suggestion, the Commander and I did see value in investing in the leveling, “striping”, and addition of some soccer goals out in the area in the middle of the outdoor track for everyone on base to utilize.
Action Line Question: I'm concerned that the fitness PTLs don't know the correct amount of laps that need to be run during the indoor 1.5 mile portion. As you mentioned before, the laps required should have been shortened due to the physical barriers in place, however the last time I ran I had to run an EXTRA half lap, not a shorter lap. Is there a way to confirm the distance required for indoor tests and spread that information to the correct people?
Wing Leadership Response: We appreciate you raising this concern! The requirement is 15 laps and 270 feet per the memo Col Spencer signed on 8 Sep 17 for the indoor track. The FAC is actually currently already working through re-training PTLs (each time a PTL shows up to administer a test, my FAC NCOIC runs through the proper procedures-with emphasis on the run and waist measurement). Our new FAC NCOIC has only been in the seat for a few weeks, so it is going to take a while for every PTL to get caught up, but they will be correctly trained before being allowed to administer a test. Additionally, the FAC moves from the starting area to the finish area during the test. The official finish area is the area where the FAC member calls out final times.
Action Line Question: Is there any way that we could have hot tubs available in the base gym? I know that this was evidently something that was present before, but has now been obviously done away with. With how cold winters get here, it'd be great to have something like that to go to on base.
Wing Leadership Response: Yes, we did have a hot tub in the men’s locker room a while ago (probably close to 10 years ago). The hot tub was not very heavily used to my knowledge. While we can certainly look further into this, it may not be the most feasible option. Hot tubs require hourly chemical maintenance, and if they do remain in the locker rooms, then we will need to have a member of each sex always on staff to maintain. This is not always feasible-nor is guaranteeing staff for hourly maintenance. They also need to be drained and scrubbed weekly, which we do not always have the 3F1 staffing for. We could look into contracting that out, but I’m not sure how much that would cost (or if local contractors exist). I have already spoken with Public Health and Safety, and we would need to have strict procedures in place to ensure that the hot tubs meet the standards set forth by Public Health and Bioenvironmental. Finally, the women’s locker room does not have a hot tub, so we would need to ensure one is provided either in a public area or in the women’s locker room to ensure equality. This is definitely possible but would be an expensive project (plus the cost of all of the chemicals).
Action Line Question: Can we get the grass and trees cut along the sidewalks both on J st, and I st. I would like to walk with my kids, but the grass is so long and tree branches are in the way. Thank You.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for pointing out the issues on this path. I’m told the grass on the indicated path has been cut, and we’ll look at the trees as part of our overall contract to maintain the great paths on this base. Please keep walking and we appreciate the feedback.
Action Line Question: Is it possible to get a walking path on redwood, west of housing? So it would be safe to walk with a stroller from housing to the community gardens?
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your question. Yes it is possible to create a walking path along Redwood from J-Street to the Community Gardens, however, the funds available to construct a proper trail are not currently accessible. Having said that, as part of our continued efforts to improve and interconnect our base multipurpose trail system we are working to find the funds to construct a new asphalt trail that would go along Redwood from J-Street all the way to Eielson, providing a dedicated path for pedestrians and runner alike. So unfortunately no new trail this summer, but we are working to find the funds to make our trail system better.
Action Line Question: Is there anything being considered to combat the DakRat infestation on base? It seems to be getting out of hand and I am starting to get concerned about the large holes, the large amounts of droppings, and the potential for damage to homes/sidewalks. I have seen lots of kids out playing now that the weather is warm and I am worried about them stepping into the holes or coming in contact with either the DakRats themselves or their droppings. I heard rumor that baiting and poisons were used at some point in the past, but complaints led to the cessation of those measures. Is there any truth to that and if so, are other options being looked at? Can residents of base housing take action to fend off the hoards or do we have to leave it up to Balfour Beatty and CE?
Wing Leadership Response: BBC and base agencies are aware of the Richardson Ground squirrel aka “Dakrats” presence on the installation both in housing and on the main base. This is an annual concern, as the base was constructed in their native habitat. From a public health perspective, the risk of disease from the actual animal and their feces is low. But just like any other wild animal, the animal can carry fleas or ticks which pose a risk to humans and domesticated animals. In the interest of everyone’s health and safety please stay away from the squirrels.
With respect to military family housing, wing leadership and BBC both advise that residents should NOT take direct action against ground squirrels, to include the use of poison. If housing residents have holes in their fenced in yard, it is their responsibility to fill the holes and maintain the grounds. If BBC residents have ground squirrel issues in the side or front yards, please call BBC housing maintenance to put in a work order. BBC may elect to contact CE Entomology for assistance in trapping or exterminating the ground squirrels where warranted. In either case, residents should use BBC Housing Maintenance at 701-594-8003 as their point of contact.
For the rest of the installation, our CE entomologists have been diligently preparing for the mosquito season that is rapidly approaching our area. Due to the shop only having two Airmen, their primary focus has been placing mosquito larvacide across the installation to prevent the larva from growing into adult mosquitos. CE Entomologist have solicited the assistance of Guard and Reserve Entomologists for the summer to assist with rodent control through the summer months. These individuals will be arriving on stations in the coming weeks and their main focus will be exterminating the ground squirrels. CE entomologists will not use chemicals or poison to control the ground squirrel population because of the associated risks to the base populace and/or the domestic animals on the installation.
Action Line Question: Would it be possible this year to trim the grass and cut down over hanging branches along I St sidewalk so we can use it as a walking path? Thank You.
Wing Leadership Response: Our CE squadron has recently resumed maintenance of this property, which was returned to Air Force control from Balfour Beatty under our housing privatization deal. CE will have the grounds contractor maintaining grounds within 50’ of the road along I street, but does not plan to invest in the sidewalk itself given the relatively low use compared to more populated parts of the base.
Action Line Question: Could we please use fluoride in the water on base? It could lower dental bills and keep our children and servicemen healthier.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for giving us an opportunity to look into this for you and the base. After speaking with our Civil Engineering Squadron and Medical Operations Support Squadron we learned the potable water consumed by installation personnel is received from the City of Grand Forks water plant.
Our base Bioenvironmental Engineering Section reviews monthly surveillance reports and told me the City of Grand Forks treats its water with fluoride in accordance with national and Air Force optimal target levels.
Action Line Question: Can we have a place to see what the "big voice" says? I can never understand what they're saying but if the app can buzz at me or at least have a place to reference those messages that would be very helpful!!
Wing Leadership Response: Depending on your location on this base, weather conditions, quality of individual giant voice speakers, etc., there’s no question it can be difficult to hear. Quite frankly, I have a hard time hearing it at my house. This is not uncommon on most military installations and is the reason why most installations (Grand Forks included) have elected to push most notifications that would come over the giant voice through the AtHoc messaging system. Most of the notifications you would hear over the giant voice are typically weather-related and nearly all result in an AtHoc message.
We still do have a requirement to have a giant voice on the installation and, over the past year, have made incremental improvements to the audio for some of the large poles which contain the speakers for the giant voice. Admittedly, we aren’t there yet and more work will be done over the coming year.
If you are not receiving AtHoc messages, I encourage you to go into the settings for AtHoc and update your preferences for notification. If you are military dependent, your active duty member can go into AtHoc and put your contact number in as well. I’ve done it myself—my wife gets all AtHoc messages on her phone.
You do raise an interesting point about utilizing the Grand Forks AFB base app we launched late last year. We recently and successfully utilized it to notify members (who have their “push notifications” enabled) that the base was closed due to blizzard conditions. We’ll absolutely take a look to see if we may be able to utilize it for notifications that would normally come over the giant voice. Of note…I also strongly encourage your dependents to download the (free) GFAFB app.
Action Line Question: Can we get new #s for all the bldgs on base so that they are clearly visible by base roads? Can they match their postal street address?
Wing Leadership Response: The use of base building numbers is for base maps, emergency response, and other military-related reasons. The postal mailing addresses are established by the US Postal Service. The two will rarely match…on any base.
As you may have seen, there is a need for signage improvement on base. Shortly after his arrival last year, Col Spencer asked the Civil Engineering Squadron Commander, Lt Col Scott Stanford, to establish a comprehensive signage plan that could be executed over 2 years. The plan has since been finalized and some of that work has already began--we’ve already replaced all street name signs, way-finding signs on Steen, etc.
Action Line Question: Suggest that all four-way stops on base is it possible to make them into two-way stops. There are many studies showing that this is actually safer and obviously better for traffic.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your question. We have a process through the Traffic Safety Coordination Group that looked at this issue previously. When a traffic concern is brought forward, the TSCG analyzes the situation, looking at factors such number and type of accidents, road conditions, signage, speed limits, sidewalk configuration, obstructions, impact to pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow, and traffic citations issued. Two of our four-way stop intersections are located in the community area where we have a high level of pedestrian traffic. A third four-way stop is at the intersection of our two busiest roads (Steen Boulevard and Eielson Street). Even though four-way stops at these three intersections are less efficient for traffic flow than two-way stops, their presence increases safety and reduces the risk of vehicular and pedestrian accidents.
Action Line Question: Would it be possible to fly remote control quadcopters on base in a designated area given that a member was FAA part 107 certificated, and obtained all necessary tower approvals within FAA guidance?
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your inquiry into this. We’ve received many other inquiries through different social media forums inquiring about the ability to fly personally procured small UAS on the installation. The short answer is that, currently, we have Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration restrictions which does not allow for the flight of small UAS on base. Additionally, that also includes government procured small UAS that we may want to fly here on base for official government purposes. There is some relief in sight though. In February 2018, we received notice that DoD is looking to begin implementing guidance that would allow us, for official government functions, to operate small UAS on base. At this time, this would still not allow for personal use of privately procured small UAS like quadcopters.
Action Line Question: I have a growing concern for this entire base. SPEEDING and Cell Phone usage. This concern is not directed at Security Forces. I applaud SF for what they do day in and day out. I am a SNCO and I see this multiple times every day. Speeding on J St, I St, and Louisiana St. I have confronted 7 people now who have been speeding. Two were going over 40MPH on I St and even running the stop sign on Redwood/I St. Others have been speeding on J St going by the Youth Center and CDC/ I know their speed because of the digital readouts on I St. I am turning into the bad guy for trying to get people to obey the rules on this base. Of the 7 people I have confronted 2 of them were SF people. I have even seen a patrol car going way faster than 20 on I St. When I ask them why they were speeding I would get because I am late, I don't feel good, they would just say I do not have an excuse, my favorite is I did not know what the speed limit was. I have called a couple of first shirts to express my disappointment in their troops speeding. The worst offenders I have noticed live on Dogwood and Beech. The only time people are doing the speed limit are when they see a patrol car sitting in one of the normal spots along J St. and they slow down. We should either raise the speed limit to 30 or pick up on patrols and actually start giving tickets. It is just a matter of time before someone is hit because of speeding or people using their phone. Regardless, the rules on base are there to be followed. People have forgotten about Integrity. Maybe SF can start using different vehicles such as a bus like downtown to crackdown on speeding and phone usage. Or give a radar gun to a walking patrol with a radio. I know the SF guys are smart and can come up with ways to combat speeding and cell phone usage. It could be perceived that SF members might not be enforcing these rules on fellow defenders and or friends. My main concern here is to not point fingers at SF, but to simply get the population on GFAFB to slow down and stay off the phone to keep our kids safe.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for bringing this to our attention--it’s a huge help! Over the 11 months that the Command Chief and I have been here we’ve received numerous inquiries and feedback on speed limits, specifically on the speed limits for I street, Aspen, and Redwood due to the fact that there are no longer any homes back there yet the speed limit remained 20 mph. In April, I approved a speed limit change in these areas, establishing a new speed limit of 30 mph. For J Street, we are in discussions with the MSG and Security Forces on the best way to curtail speeding in the areas around the CDC and Youth Center. We’re also looking for creative ways to attack “distracted driving” brought about by cell phone usage while driving. Finally, I applaud you taking initiative to address these issues; however, I ask that you refrain from personally stopping individuals you believe to be violating the law. I would encourage you, as a SNCO, to get their vehicle information (license plate, make/model, vehicle color, alleged infraction, etc.) and pass this along to Security Forces. Stopping or confronting individuals for alleged wrongdoing should be left to trained Security Forces personnel.
Action Line Question: The speed limit on J street should be changed to 30mph on J street between Spruce Dr. and New Jersey street? There are no houses or parks near the road in-between the two roads and 20 mph makes it a miserable drive from the beginning of J street all the way to the back.
Wing Leadership Response: This particular stretch of road has been brought to our attention, and we agree with your frustration! As part of our Housing Privatization agreement, BBC has responsibility for the section of J Street from Maxwell Ave (i.e. near the Youth Center) until it flows into Louisiana St. This includes the section of road you referred to. We recently asked BBC to consider raising the speed limit for this portion of J Street, and they are currently reviewing our request. On a related note, you may have seen in a recent Public Affairs announcement and in your travels around Housing that we increased speed limits from 20 to 30 mph on roads in the areas for which we have responsibility: I‐Street from 7th Avenue to Aspen; Aspen from I Street to J Street; and Redwood from I-Street to J-Street. We continue to look for opportunities like this that make sense while maintaining safe traffic flow.
Action Line Question: At every event, you challenge us in some manner. I challenge the two of you to drive down J street and count the number of bumps, potholes, cracked roads etc. I understand that these are natural speed limit enforcers but it is ridiculous that we have dodge these things to maintain our cars daily to and from work. Please and thank you! #ICHALLENGEYOU
Wing Leadership Response: I sympathize with your concerns. As the Wg/CC, I too live on the base and drive on J street, sometimes multiple times per day. As the weather improves, you will see teams from CE out doing spot repairs. In fact, we recently filled a large pothole on J Street…I believe this is the main one you refer to that required some “dodging.” However, filling pot holes only makes the condition of the roads marginally-to-moderately better. When a road on base reaches a point where it’s no longer feasible to simply do spot repairs, we’ll plan a resurfacing. With that said, resurfacing base roads costs money and our resources are not unlimited. Our Civil Engineer Squadron has multiple resurfacing projects planned. We’re currently working a plan for a complete replacement of J Street in the next 2-3 years. I just reviewed these projects within the last month. Should we receive the necessary resources, we will be ready to execute! Until we can resurface some of these roads, our Civil Engineering team will work to make them as serviceable as possible.
Action Line Question: Sir, I have recently PCS'd here from Hurlburt Field and my family and I will be living in Larimore due to the inflated home cost in grand forks. My question and or suggestion is concerning the on base Veterinarian service that was once offered on base approximately three years ago, according to security forces just next to the vet facility. Is there any way to find funding for this? A copay system to offset the cost? Or local fund raising? People on base have pets and also people in the surrounding areas, I believe it would benefit the troops and give a better piece of mind to know these services were close by in case of a pet emergency.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for sending in your question and welcome to Grand Forks! Most people assigned to Grand Forks likely don’t know that the Commander and I both brought pets here from Davis-Monthan and completely understand your question and concerns.
Upon arrival and during our SFS immersion of the Military Working Dog program, we were briefed that the closest Army Veterinarian resides at Minot AFB and that we have an agreement with Minot by which we get vet services from that Army vet.
As you likely are aware, at most bases/installations, the Army Veterinarian primary role on base is to care for our Military Working Dogs. They do often see non-military animals on a Space Available basis.
At this time there is no current plan for the Army to place a vet here. The Commander and I both have used some of the off base vets here for our animals and there are some great local vets that I’m sure can care for your pets.
Action Line Question: Can the grass be cut along the sidewalk that runs north/south from Aspen Ave to Spruce St on the west side of J Street....at a minimum 10-20 feet on both sides of the sidewalk? This is a highly used sidewalk by my family and many others. The grass is getting tall and unkempt. Mosquitoes and ticks are an issue in the summer and the tall grass exacerbates the problem. This is a concern due to the many health issues attributed to mosquitoes/ticks for humans and pets (not to mention nuisance). I assume this would require re-working a contract, but would be beneficial to the base populace.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for the suggestion…it’s done and the Commander and I went out to “go and see” to verify.
Action Line Question: What is the best place to direct Lyft drivers for pickup/drop-off?
Wing Leadership Response: Lyft and Uber drivers should be directed to the visitor center parking lot if they do not have access to the installation.
Action Line Question: Do all these improvements mean the base will be expanding?
Wing Leadership Response: At this time there is no plan to expand on the installation in either infrastructure or in mission. The improvements made on the base are all in attempt to make Grand Forks an even better place to live and work each day for those assigned.
Action Line Question: Base snow removal is terrible! Parking lots and sidewalks haven't been touched, worse I have seen in years. Maybe the base should hire BBC snow removal. Dorm parking lots are also a mess. I hope we are not paying the snow removal company for such poor performance.
Wing Leadership Response: The 2018/2019 winter season has brought us colder than normal temperatures and snow totals that have not been seen since 1997. GFAFB’s average annual snowfall total is approximately 39 inches. We have received a total of 76 inches of snow thus far, almost double our average snowfall! In addition to the higher snowfall total, we have also experienced below freezing temperatures for 63 consecutive days which has prevented the snow from melting as seen in previous years.
Despite the abundance of snowfall this year, and colder temperatures, our base snow contractors have met the performance-based contract requirements with very few complaints. In fact, they have met all contractual requirements for the past decade. GFAFB has a contractor solely responsible for snow removal on base side streets and parking lots (Berger Enterprises), and one for sidewalks (ICD Builders). Berger Enterprises and ICD Builders are monitored daily by two full-time Contracting Officer Representatives (COR) out of the Civil Engineer Squadron’s Operations Flight to ensure that the contractor meets the performance standards contained in the contract. The CORs are responsible for providing continuous technical oversight of the contractors’ performance and reporting early identification of performance problems to the Contracting Officer. Balfour Beauty Inc. oversees their own snow removal contract for housing streets, sidewalks and driveways.
The base side streets and parking lots are broken down into one of three priority categories based on mission needs of each facility, associated parking lot, and/or road.
Priority 1 roads and parking lots support our 24/7 mission facilities such as our Global Hawk Operation facilities, Air Traffic Control tower, High-Frequency Global Communications System (HFGCS) facility, and Fire/Emergency/Security Forces facilities and their respective response routes. Contractually, Priority 1 requirements must be cleared within 3 hours of the last ¼” of snowfall.
Priority 2 roads and parking lots are those functions that support our 24/7 mission facilities such as the Child Development Center, Dining Facility, Logistic Vehicle Maintenance, and our government vehicle gas station. These designated areas must be cleared within 24 hours of the last ¼” of snowfall.
Priority 3 roads and parking lots are all other areas that are not designated as Priority 1 or 2 such as the Fitness Center, Base Exchange, Commissary, Bowling Alley, JR Rockers and the dorm parking lots. Snow removal will be completed within 72 hours of the last ¼” of snowfall and all parking lots will be completed within 96 hours of the last 1/4” of snowfall. Additionally, the contractor must clear a two-lane driving path through all Priority 3 streets and parking lots within 24 hours of the first snowfall. An additional 24-hour variance will be given for complete clearing of streets and parking lots given severe snowfall (over 12 inches in 12 hours) or severe winds (sustained winds over 25 mph).
Snow removal in the dorm parking lots is much more challenging and requires significant coordination. Our Civil Engineer CORs, Dorm Managers and Snow Contractors work together to coordinate snow removal from the parking lots with the Airmen that live in each dorm after each snow event. As you can imagine, this is difficult because we have Airmen that work on shift schedules, are TDY, or deployed and are unable to move their cars from these parking lots. The snow contractor takes great care in ensuring that no cars are damaged in the dorm parking lots while they are conducting snow operations. Despite these challenges, the contractor still executes snow removal as each situation allows.
In regards to sidewalks, ICD Builders also have performance metrics that must be met in accordance with the contract. The contractor must clear a pathway 3-feet wide that is free of snow accumulation, piles, and/or drifts by removing all snow and ice from sidewalks, steps, landings, and facility entrance ramps across the entire installation. Top priorities for the sidewalk snow removal contract include the Medical Group building, Child Development Center, Youth Center, Commissary, and Base Supply. Snow removal of the sidewalks begins after 1” of accumulation or within 1-hour after snowfall stops, beginning with the priorities listed above and continues until the all sidewalks are clear.
Prior to each winter season, snow removal priorities are briefed to Group Commanders, Squadron Commanders, and associated subject matter experts to ensure the contractor has clear guidance on what the base needs to ensure we maintain 24/7 Global Hawk and HFGCS operations regardless of the weather conditions. Again, the current contractors have exceeded or met all of the contractual requirements that have been codified in the contract this year. Contractually, both Berger Enterprises and ICD Builders maintain and operate 24/7 call centers that anyone on the installation can call to voice their concerns or make requests for snow removal. We encourage anyone that has an issue to bring it to the snow removal contractor’s attention using the numbers listed below:
- Berger Enterprises (Streets/Parking Lots Contractor): 701-775-1402
- ICD Builders (Sidewalks Contractor): 218-791-8136
If, for whatever reason, an individual needs to elevate their concern, please feel free to contact the Primary Contracting Officer Representative, Mr. John Beger at 701-747-6644.
This winter has been a grueling one with record snowfalls and record low temperatures. Despite those challenges, there are teams of people that work very long hours to ensure that the base is open and that each one of you can execute our mission. Spring is right around the corner; thank you for your patience and perseverance through this winter season!
Action Line Question: A snowstorm yielding 7 inches of snow and even higher snow drifts hit the area over the weekend. This snowfall caused hazardous driving conditions in town and on highway 2. Nobody works on the weekends, so there's no need to "close the base," right? Not so fast. I have a feeling that if this snowstorm were to fall during a weekday, the base would have been closed--delayed reporting at the very least.
I believe squadron Commanders and section Chiefs are not all on the same page as to what would constitute an Airman (civilian or military) to be able to come in to work or not. Can we get further delegation, or better yet, more involvement from the Wing Commander for reporting instructions on the weekend? I made it to work in one piece this morning, but would have preferred to not drive through such hazardous conditions--especially if a readily available Airman living on base is able to work instead.
Wing Leadership Response: First and foremost, the 319 ABW places safety at the forefront and if there is ever a point weekday, weekend, or otherwise that a member of our community who works on base feels traveling is unsafe, then do not travel. Communication during these moments is paramount. Contact your supervisor, your chain of command, a friend in the work center….and then, do not travel.
There are different factors for consideration when it comes to weekday and weekend duty. During a weekday, factors such as civilian pay, CDC closure, school closing, etc., come into play as these primary services are weekday specific and the loss of these services drives a definitive need for alternate planning on a larger scale. You are absolutely correct in that we have squadrons that work 24/7, 365 days out of the year regardless of what the rest of the population does, to include weekends, holidays and family down-days. Of note, the majority of these Airmen are performing “Snow Essential” functions (Defenders, HFGCS, Tower/RAPCON, DFAC, airfield snow removal, etc.) and are required to report to work, even if the base is closed.
Here at Grand Forks AFB, I have empowered our squadron commanders and leadership teams to make their own decisions during the weekend, holiday, down day periods. They have full knowledge of those services, missions, or functions they control outside the normal weekday work day. Placing a “one size fits all” wing mandate is not feasible at our location. Squadron commanders have done an excellent job, in my opinion, of planning ahead when it comes to weekend snow storms. To give examples: we have squadrons that posture only on-base personnel for weekend duty when there is a storm predicted to hit in an effort to reduce risk to their workforce. Additionally, some squadrons have lodging and MRE plans should the need arise during a weekend when it would be unsafe for personnel to leave the base after having worked an entire shift. And all the squadrons under this wing have full authority to eliminate unneeded risk in travel when conditions are unsafe--this reduced risk decision does not have to flow to the wing and can be handled at the lowest level with proper communication.
If anyone finds themselves responding to a shift during a snowstorm and feels it is unsafe, they are encouraged to call their leadership immediately allowing work centers to flex or adjust without the need for a base closure whether it be during the weekday or weekend. Further, I encourage work centers to preplan as much as possible to avoid the need for added risk during odd-shift hours. Advanced planning based off known factors such as inbound weather will go a long way toward reducing situations like you encountered. When in doubt, make a call and stay safe.
Action Line Question: On base school and the bus to Central have been delayed for awhile now with no announcement of a base delay, why is there such a disconnect between agencies to announce late reporting? Other spouses say my husband should just coordinate with his leadership or have me stay home but as a working civilian that costs hour at work. My husband's work, and many other people from what my friends say, can't simply call in our their leadership harasses them and careers are suffering just because we are a duel working household. If it's not safe for buses and kids from town why not call the delay for everyone?
Wing Leadership Response: Base closure, delayed reporting and early release decisions are the most complex and controversial decisions I make. I take them very seriously as they involve both the safety of our Airmen and our ability to execute the mission. The process I employ to make these decisions is extremely thorough--I use inputs from commanders and experts at all levels combined with data from multiple sources. I’ve explained, in depth, the highly-structured process that undergirds these decisions in answers to previous CC Action Line questions in addition to Wg/CC Calls. I won’t cover that ground again here, but I will say that the while the school district’s decision is a significant part of my decision calculus, it’s not the only factor I must consider. Of note, every time I close the base, I must report the closure to Headquarters Air Force along with relevant rationale for closure decision.
For the 2018-19 winter season, the school district changed its approach to making closure/delayed reporting decisions. They used to make the decision early in the morning around 0500…about the same time the base holds its snow telecon to facilitate my closure/delayed reporting decision. This past winter, they tried to best guess the weather and make these decisions the night before—approximately 12 hours before the schools would open. The first time they did this, I followed and made an early closure decision with them. The weather didn’t materialize overnight and the decision proved to be very wrong. After this, I made a deliberate decision not to make base closure decisions until early in the morning. As you’ve probably noted recently, we will still make delayed reporting decisions the night before to, at a minimum, provide us time to make a proper closure decision in the morning. Since my arrival, every time the schools have closed, delayed reporting, or released early due to deteriorating or unsafe road conditions, I have mirrored their decision.
The times we did not follow the schools were during two days of extremely cold temperatures two months ago. I completely understood the school district’s concern about exposing children to this extreme cold at bus stops or while walking to school. However, in these instances, the roads were safe to travel and visibility was great—it was sunny and clear. Given the travel conditions were deemed safe, I had no rationale to close the base. Why? Each Airman at GFAFB is issued nearly $1,000 in cold weather gear upon arrival so he/she can work in extremely cold conditions. They’re also provided training on how to be safe in these conditions. Our Airmen should be prepared to work in these conditions given that we support a global, deployed-in-place mission daily. Our Air Force relies on the Warriors of the North to be able to execute mission in some of the coldest weather in the continental United States. I trust our Airmen and leaders to be smart and safe in these conditions, developing strategies to dress appropriately and minimize exposure to the cold all while executing the mission.
Bottom line: While I’m sensitive to the school district’s decisions and am aware of the impacts of the base not mirroring the schools, there will be limited situations where I may need to deviate from the schools’ decision. In the limited cases where I deviate from the schools in making closure, delayed reporting/early release decisions, it’s essential that families have in place a child care plan they are ready to execute on short notice.
Action Line Question: Col Spencer, I need your help! Starting this winter, let the WotN take a “Function Over Fashion” approach to cold weather uniform regulations. Empowered by the common sense movement created under then CSAF Gen. Welsh and continued by current AF leadership, allow the wear of cold weather accessories without having to wear authorized outer garments. This would free Airmen to dress to their individual comfort level, which significantly varies, during the North’s harsh winters. An example is, in ABUs thermal undergarments combined with a watch cap and gloves may be all you require to be safe and comfortable at a certain temperature. This example is not permitted by AFI as it requires Airmen to wear an outer garment, which can’t be unzipped more than approximately 25%, potentially inducing sweating a fatal condition in winter. Please allow the wear of cold weather accessories without having to wear authorized outer garments. In the words of Gen. Welsh, "If it doesn't match common sense then I don't care what it says in the AFI, let's talk about it" and SecAF Wilson “We‘re looking at getting out of the business of legislating common sense.” #Make Grand Forks AFB Great Again
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your question; it is especially timely as we enter the oft-brutal NoDak winter season! Chief Thomas and I constantly review changes to uniform wear guidance and consider our supplemental authority (we recently reviewed the changes posted on 28 September 2018 specifically for updates regarding Cold and Extreme Cold Weather wear). As you have likely experienced, North Dakota winter weather can change suddenly and dangerously; accordingly, we must ensure our WotN are prepared for those changes.
When reviewing any AFI for supplementation, you can imagine that leadership’s number one concern must always be the safety of our Airmen. Understandably, when considering supplements to AFI 36-2903, leaders must additionally consider the Air Force, its image and the image of professionalism displayed by Airmen when they wear the uniform.
Specifically regarding ABUs and optional/mandatory garments, as you are aware, members are authorized to wear optional thermal under garments and gloves without the outer garment (AFI 36-2903, 5.1.10, 18 July 2011). However, cold weather accessories such as scarves, ear muffs and watch caps must be worn with an outer garment. In light of our two-pronged criteria for uniform wear, we believe this requirement passes the common sense test. Logically, if it’s cold enough outside for scarves and watch caps, it’s more than cold enough for mandatory outer garments. It follows that if an Airman is too warm and wishes to shed garments, shedding optional undergarments before mandatory garments is the appropriate course of action.
Again, Chief Thomas and I constantly review our options to supplement and/or waive Air Force Instructions and we understand each individual’s internal temperature can vary from person to person; we trust that you will continue to dress with a “safety first” mindset, and in accordance with established Air Force standards.
Action Line Question: What criteria is used by to determine if/when an early release or delayed reporting is authorized for base personnel due to weather and do first line supervisors have the support from Wing Leadership to make case-by-case calls for their members?
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for sending in your question. The process for determining early release and delayed reporting starts with the Weather Flight. They provide weather conditions and potential hazardous conditions to base leaders. Security Forces provides an assessment of base roads along with an in-person assessment of Route 2. Finally, CE engages the Grand Forks School District and ND Dept of Transportation. The School District’s decision always plays heavily into our decision calculus.
If it’s an overnight snow event, the Commander has a telecon with MDG, MSG, CE, SFS, OSS, and PA at 0500 during which the MSG/CC provides him a closure recommendation. He will then either concur or non-concur. That decision is communicated to the Command Post who updates the Snow Line and PA updates Facebook. This process is typically competed NLT 0530.
If the snow event happens during days/swings, we execute the same process as above in as timely a manner as possible. Based on recent feedback, we’re now updating the Snow Line and Facebook page before days, swings, and mids to ensure our Warriors of the North on all shifts have the latest information.
Keep in mind, the Commander is using very top-level data from multiple sources to make this decision. If the Commander decides to keep the base open or not delay reporting and roads are unsafe in the area you reside, you should call your supervisor and the two of you need to make a decision about your travel to work that puts safety first.
Action Line Questions: I watched your FB live on 7 Dec. One question for next FB Live. Can you please expand on the late reporting? If the ND DOT says no travel advised, why is the base putting people on the road. Why not make it late report for off base personnel, and all on base personnel report at normal duty hours. It’s much safer to travel when there is light, then trying to navigate through bad roads when it’s dark.
Wing Leadership Response: The travel advisory does not mean the roads are closed. Keep in mind, ND DOT typically doesn’t re-evaluate the roads until 0400-0500 so the information we get from them about road conditions early in the morning may take some time to update on the web site. Also, if Grand Forks School District doesn’t delay the schools and determines the roads are safe enough to put school busses on them (which has happened this year), then that will weigh heavily into my decision.
Bottom line…We take multiple pieces of data into account when crafting a decision and we do so with the safety of our Airmen paramount in my decision calculus. No single piece of data, like ND DOT’s “No Travel Advised” is the determining factor in my decision.
As the Commander has stated before, he’s using very top-level data from multiple sources to make this decision. If I decide to keep the base open or not delay reporting and roads are unsafe in the area you reside, you should call your supervisor and the two of you need to make a decision about your travel to work that puts safety first.
Action Line Question: The individuals participating in the Fargo exercise are being told they will have 12 dollars a day ($48) for being mandated to participate in a base exercise for food. Something does not seem right about this, when asked the question as to why they were told that’s just how it is.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your question. Pay entitlements are an important and sensitive topic, so I want to ensure you are provided the correct information. Airmen participating in the 20-23 May deployment exercise are being provided transportation, meals, and lodging at government expense. As such, their deployment orders reflect “field conditions,” and there is no additional pay entitlement for transportation, per diem, or incidental expenses since the government is covering these expenses. Airmen currently on Essential Station Messing (ESM or “meal card”) will receive these meals at no cost, with no change to their monthly LES. Airmen who are receiving Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) will receive government-provided meals at no cost, but will have a proportionate deduction in their BAS. This amount varies from $8-13 per day, depending on the BAS rate received over the 4-day exercise, and will reflect on the monthly LES. [IAW DoD FMR Vol 7A Ch 25 Para 250104C, “military members may not be provided meals or rations at no charge by or on behalf of the government while entitled to BAS for the same period of service…”]
Action Line Question: Situation: Active Duty member with a spouse that is also a DoD civilian employee. If they have a baby, and the wife has a financial need to return to her DoD civilian job before the baby is 6 weeks old (youngest a child can start daycare). Would this be grounds for the Active Duty member to be given primary caregiver status to care for the child until they are old enough to attend daycare?
AFI 36-3003, 188.8.131.52 States: "In some cases, the covered military member may be designated as the primary caregiver. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to, a dual military couple where one member of the couple is designated as the primary caregiver, the unavailability or incapacity of the birth parent if the birth parent is not a military member, the necessity of the non-military parent to return to his or her place of employment..."
Wing Leadership Response: First, Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your child!
As you have discovered in your reading of the Leave AFI, for obvious reasons of military necessity, normally, the non-military member (in a non-military-to-military relationship) is designated as the primary caregiver. But, as you point out AFI 36-3003, 184.108.40.206 lists some examples of exceptions. When taking into account the spirit and intent of the Leave AFI and, specifically, paragraph 220.127.116.11 with regards to your specific question, “a financial need to return to her DoD civilian job” may not meet the intent of the exception listed, i.e., “the necessity of the non-military parent to return to his or her place of employment” where the desire to return to work is voluntary rather than a military necessity or mission requirement of the DoD civilian’s job.
However, since each birth creates a unique situation for the military member and his/her family, and because the Squadron Commander (and Command Team) knows his/her Airmen best, the authority to grant extenuating leave circumstances or permissive TDY (non-chargeable leave) rightly rests with the Squadron Commander. I highly recommend you reach out to your Squadron Commander and First Sergeant and discuss the options available to provide support to your family. Your command team is in the best position to provide assistance and to make sure you can be supported by the base’s helping agencies.
Remember, even as a secondary caregiver, the Active Duty member is authorized up to 21 days of Secondary Caregiver leave which must be taken within 1 year of a qualifying birth. Based on the Squadron Commander’s assessment of mission requirements and risks, there is possibly the opportunity for personal leave and permissive TDY (non-chargeable leave) that may meet your family’s financial needs while also meeting the military’s needs.
Again, congratulations! We are overjoyed to welcome another Junior Warrior of the North!
Action Line Question: Sir, the EEO link on this website has no contact info. I am a civilian employee. Where do I address my eeo concerns? Thank you.
Wing Leadership Response: Civilian employees assigned to Grand Forks AFB who require EEO assistance can contact the local Equal Opportunity office here on base for assistance. Our office (EO) deals with civilian and military concerns that fall within the EO purview or that are addressed under the EO umbrella. The EO office is located at 558 Eielson Street (Building 440) and the office phone number is 701-747-3200. Our EO Office is working with PA to ensure proper contact information is on the base website. Thank you for the feedback!
Action Line Question: embers who have brought up legitimate issues like concealed carry and base delays affecting EPRs and civilian employment in town deserve a response instead of the silent treatment.
Wing Leadership Response: I make every effort to be as responsive and transparent as possible and, according to my records, Chief Thomas and I have answered every CC Action Line question submitted over the past 20 months with the exception of a few that were unprofessional in nature. Should a query not be posed in a constructive or professional manner or degrades individuals, organizations, etc., I will forward to the input to the Sq/CC whose unit or personnel are referenced; however, I will NOT post that query on the site. We will always eagerly engage Airmen who provide professional comments or queries and are interested in a constructive conversation that solves problems and makes GFAFB a better place to live and work.
With that said, first, the concealed carry question has been asked and answered more than once and in multiple venues, to include the CC Action Line. After much research and consultation, I made an official decision shortly after my arrival in 2017 to not permit conceal carry on GFAFB which was also the previous Wg/CC’s policy. I reviewed my 2017 decision in 2018 and opted not to change it. If you go to the CC Action Line page and scroll down, you’ll find that the most recent conceal carry Q&A was posted there a few months ago. I have not been reticent to communicate my decision on this matter to Sq/CCs or the base populace.
As for questions regarding “delays affecting EPRs” and “civilian employment in town,” we have no record of these topics being raised with me or the Command Chief via the CC Action Line (or Facebook, Wg/CC Calls, etc.).
With that said, we’ve been taking steps to improve the timeliness of the submission of completed EPRs to AFPC. Our track record in the past has not been good. To address this issue, in Jan 19, I tied our Goal Day (day off) on 29 March 19 to whether or not we’d made adequate progress in getting SSgt EPRs to AFPC in a timely manner. Starting with the current SSgt SCOD, FSS now puts out a plan that projects the weekly progress required to get all 400 SSgt EPRs to AFPC by the required 1 Apr 19 suspense date. I’m proud to say that, as of 19 Mar 19, we had forwarded 368 completed SSgt EPRs to AFPC (out of 400) which is a dramatic improvement over last year, and we still have 12 days to submit the remaining EPRs. I feel we’re leading the AF with this effort. We’ll be taking the processes we created that were so successful in getting our SSgt EPRs submitted on time and using them for all future SCODs, tweaking where necessary, with the hope of getting EVERY Airman’s EPR to AFPC by the suspense date.
Finally, I’m not familiar with any “civilian employment in town” questions raised in any venue. Moreover, I can’t guess the nature of the issue you reference. As always, I’ll gladly take a look at the issue if someone were to send me a specific question/comment.
Action Line Question: Why does the base implement group control centers which are not required or recommended in accordance with PPD 8 and AFMAN 10-2502? The reasoning for the re-structuring of emergency response after 2011 was due to studies showing that different organizations could not effectively work together after an incident. By adding extra (unnecessary?) steps into the chain we break interoperability which is a major point of the national incident management system. A quote from 10-2502 is below: "Interoperability. The Air Force has incorporated the National Incident Management System approach into the Air Force Incident Management System to set the framework for interoperability and compatibility among other response and preparedness agencies outside the Air Force. "
Wing Leadership Response: Group Control Centers serve as the command and control center (aka UCC) for group commanders. Paragraph 18.104.22.168 of AFMAN 10-2502 states “Control centers vary depending on the resources, capabilities, and mission of a respective group or squadron,” and at GFAFB we have postured GCCs to keep group and wing leadership informed of the status of base personnel and mission response actions. GCCs are not redundant to the AFIMS response framework, but instead complement it by providing a C2 structure when the Crisis Action Team is not activated. A good example of the benefit of GCCs is recent AFPAAS accountability taskings, where GCCs and UCCs provided personnel accountability and assessed mission impacts due to natural disasters.
Action Line Question: I am a non-bargaining GS employee assigned to Grand Forks AFB. Historically, I and my fellow civilians received advice from the Civilian Personnel Section whenever we had a grievance or there was an issue between the employee and management. The CPS was viewed as a resource for employees who needed information and clarification when handling workplace disputes or simply had a question about options available to them. Recently, I contacted CPS and was informed they were now “a tool for management” and could not (or perhaps would not) provide any assistance to the employees. They refused to provide advice to resolve a grievance and even refused to provide information about retirement options. When questioned about resources available to non-bargaining employees, I was told to contact the Wing IG. AFI 36-706, para 2.8. states, “CPSs are responsible for publicizing the grievance process and advise employees regarding grievance procedures. CPSs shall promote use of informal resolution techniques to resolve disputes early and at the lowest level possible.” AFI 36-703, para 2.6.2. states, CPS will “Provide employees procedural guidance on administrative actions consistent with this instruction.” It appears the new management at this CPS is either unaware of their responsibilities to non-bargaining employees or simply unwilling to perform them. If this is indeed the new direction and role of CPS, what resources are available to advocate for non-bargaining employees? Is the expectation that every grievance should begin with a trip to the IG? If CPS is now only in management’s corner, who is in ours?
Wing Leadership Response: There are many items requiring a response in this inquiry. To begin, as mentioned in the submission, the role of the civilian personnel office with regard to both employees and management is defined within several AFIs.
To further illustrate, utilizing the information within the submission: in accordance with AFI 36-706, Administrative Grievance System (May 14), the paragraph outlined (2.8) in its entirety reads, "CPSs serve as principal policy and technical advisors for deciding officials and supervisors and assist them in processing and resolving grievances. This includes assisting deciding officials and supervisors in determining the most appropriate management official to represent the Air Force in any ADR proceeding. CPSs are responsible for publicizing the grievance process and advise employees regarding grievance procedures. CPSs shall promote use of informal resolution techniques to resolve disputes early and at the lowest level possible. (T-0)"
As such, CPS is permitted to advise on the procedural aspect for employees; however, to provide personal advice on a situation for an employee while serving as a technical advisor to supervisors and deciding officials would not be responsible. I’ve been informed there are currently no active grievances for which to provide procedural guidance and that the CPS has not refused to provide information in accordance with AFI 36-706.
Additionally, IAW AFI 36-703, Civilian Conduct and Responsibility, 2.6.3 states CPS will "Provide supervisors and managers with employee management relations advisory services." Due to these advisory services to supervisors/managers/commanders, civilian personnel sections are relegated to providing (2.6.2) "employees procedural guidance on administrative actions consistent with [AFI 36-703]."
As a non-bargaining employee here on the installation, there are many avenues available to you to address concerns between supervisors and employees. These include, but are not limited to, the use of ADR, Alternate Dispute Resolution; the Inspector General; the Administrative Grievance AFI; the Chaplain; or Congressional avenues. The vast majority of our non-bargaining employees are supervisors/managers and, as such, CPS would assist them with advisory services with regard to their employees.
Lastly, in early 2000s, all employee benefits were centralized at AFPC. This allowed for one uniformed response for employee inquiries to include those for health and life insurance benefits and retirement concerns. The system, the Employee Benefits Information System (EBIS), was housed in AFPC Secure. In August of 2017, the EBIS system converted to the Government Retirement & Benefits (GRB) platform. It can still be found in AFPC Secure. The GRB is a one-stop shop for retirement information and CPSs have been instructed to point employees to this system to ensure the information distributed is the same across the board and does not vary from installation to installation. CPS is still here to assist with reviewing the paperwork printed for signatures and to provide mailing labels; however, the program is centralized. I’ve been informed that all retirement inquiries within our CPS office are given the GRB information--none have been refused.
Action Line Question: Is it possible to get everyone on the same page with reflective belts? Their use and enforcement is random with no rhyme or reason, making it extremely frustrating. Outside the gates, getting hit by cars doesn't seem to be a problem or concern.
Wing Leadership Response: In an effort to minimize duplicative guidance, 319 ABW has no policy on use of reflective belt because there is guidance on wearing reflective garments in AFI 36-2903. It requires reflective garments to be worn during periods of darkness, inclement weather, during traffic hazards and while operating human-powered vehicles.
The command chief is going to bring this topic up with the Installation First Sergeants and Unit Superintendents to sync our perspective and guidance on this topic.
Thank you for bringing it to our attention!
Action Line Question: For the last two years I have tried to get information about the Retiree Appreciation Day. Last year I called the retiree office and the Public Information office and no one had any knowledge of an RAD. I have just called them both again (10-3-2018, 0830 hrs) and the person answering for Public Information had no knowledge of an RAD and could not give me the number for the retiree office. I called the operator as this number is not listed on the web site. I got no answer after about ten rings. Is there no longer an RAD or just what is the story? It looks like you only answer questions on this site so will be checking every day. Thanks for your response.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, GFAFB does not currently organize Retiree Appreciation Day activities. We appreciate the many military retirees in the Grand Forks community. The challenge with both a Retiree Activities Office (RAO), as you’ve likely seen at installations around the Air Force, is that it’s an “all volunteer” office. In my experience, usually the RAO works in coordination with base leadership on retiree activities to include the RAD.
Upon arrival, this topic was brought up to the command chief who looked into it. What he was told by base leaders at the time was that the RAO was closed some time ago due to a lack of staffing support by local retirees in the area.
If you would like to speak about this more or have ideas about RAO and the RAD, please contact Chief Master Sgt. Brian Thomas at 701-747-4511, I know he’d absolutely be willing to sit down and discuss ideas about this topic.
Action Line Question: What are we going to do to improve recycling on this base?
Wing Leadership Response: We completely understand why you’d ask this. When the commander and I first got here last year we noticed that we didn’t even practice recycling in the Wing Headquarters building. Since then, when the commander and I are “out and about” on base, we try to look for areas they may not have recycling containers.
The commander has emphasized with the group and squadron commanders that every unit is authorized to purchase these containers as well as to establish local unit policy/procedures for getting recycling to the recycling center.
We believe this renewed emphasis on this program will help to improve recycling on base.
Action Line Question: Why is there such a disparity in posted hours and the actual operating hours at base support agencies?
Wing Leadership Response: Unfortunately without a more specific example of which support agency you are referring to I can’t exactly address your specific concern. However, I did go on to our new Grand Forks AFB app as well as the base webpage to cross check those numbers and posted hours of operation and didn’t find a disparity.
From time to time, some of our base services do close early, but in my experience here, there’s usually a corresponding message that will go out from either FSS Marketing or from base Public Affairs.
One area this did highlight is that we realized our military family members wouldn’t receive government e-mail, so we are going to look into how we could communicate this to those individuals if a need to close early should arise.
Action Line Question: Can we make this base a short/controlled tour? So many first-term Airmen have this as their first and only base.
Wing Leadership Response: This question has come up in several other venues, and Chief Thomas has done a fair amount of research into it. In speaking with the ACC/A1 Chief Enlisted Manager and our own local FSS Superintendent, Chief Geary, we discovered that while there is an ability to code certain position numbers (not the entire squadron) on a squadron’s Unit Manning Document (UMD), it’s not possible to do this wing-wide. It should be noted that the authority to place these codes on UMDs does not reside with the Wing Commander and requires an incredible amount of justification.
If a unit were to put an Assignment Availability Code (AAC 50) which is a stabilized CONUS assignment tour code on certain UMD position numbers it would create several challenges for unit leadership.
1. Once placed in a position that’s Code 50, a member cannot move from that position which limits a unit’s ability to move manpower.
2. Because the entire unit cannot receive a Code 50, the question of fairness and equality of who gets the Code 50 and who does not could potentially affect morale in the squadron by effectively creating “haves and have nots.”
At this time, there is not plan in the Wing to pursue addition AAC codes to position numbers due to the concerns listed above.
However, we do encourage all Airmen to routinely go to the Assignment Management System (AMS) to check when the EQUALS Overseas and other assignment cycles are posted. I’ve seen First Term Airmen assigned to Grand Forks apply and be approved for an assignment after only being on station 1 year during my time as the Command Chief.
Action Line Question: With Grand Forks being on the slower side for missions, is there a way to make an inter-shop training course to help each shop understand how they help each other.
Wing Leadership Response: While I can completely understand your perspective on our operation tempo here, I can tell you we’ve never been more globally engaged with our two operational missions, Global Hawk and High Frequency Global Communication (HFGCS) and our supporting units.
As the Commander and I have stated, the Global Hawk and HFGCS missions are tough missions to get to know because of the nature of the business they conduct, but I’m proud to say that every Airman and civilian on the base contributes daily to these mission sets in their own ways.
I do like the idea of inter-squadron/flight/section training and would love to hear more about it if you are willing to share. Please contact me, Chief Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, 701-747-4511 to discuss further.
Action Line Question: Are there any classes given on base to improve professional developments?
Wing Leadership Response: Professional Development Courses are offered on a variety of topics. Courses are held on the last Wednesday of each month in the Education Center Lecture Bowl. There is a 0900 session for NCOs/CGOs and there is a 1300 session for Airmen. Please see the Walker Warrior Professional Development Center Course registration page for a list of course offerings and to sign up. The site is located at: https://cs2.eis.af.mil/sites/er/0311/SitePages/Home.aspx.
Action Line Question: Good afternoon, I recently reached out on a Facebook live about possibly starting a program here at Grand Forks AFB that is similar to a program from our previous base.
The program at our previous base was called Hearts Apart. The main goal of the program was to bring families and spouse of deployed service members together for support from one another through fun activities. The best way to describe this program is to tell you how it works from the very beginning and down to the fun stuff.
The program usually had a "president" which at my last base was one of the ladies at the AFRC. When the deploying member would get to the AFRC as part of their out-processing checklist, the president would provide the member with information regarding the program (explaining that this program is not something that is required, just a nice gesture to help families/spouses get out and connect with those going through the same thing) and a sign-up sheet to give to their spouse/family which included a question asking them for their email which needs to be dropped back off to the AFRC and given to the programs president. Emailing was how the president communicated with the spouses/families about the programs. Once or twice a month the president would email out an activity which was planned for the program and was usually free for the spouses/families. Now for the fun stuff. The activities would sometimes be adults only such as tickets to a local beer hopping weekend, a paint party at a local place, or just a camping weekend. They did these kind of kid free events so they did not single out those spouses who didn't have children but still needed the same support as those with children. They also had several family activities. My last base had a beach on base, so they would hold a cookout/beach day for us, or a movie and camping out at the beach.
I attended several of these events myself while my husband was gone and I absolutely loved it. It was nice not feeling so alone and having the support, even from total strangers. I actually meet some of my very best friend at the events. I would like to bring this program or something similar to this base for that very reason. I recently met a few spouses through my work who have deployed husbands/wives and they were all talking about how they have no support from the base during this difficult time, only from friends. I think the base and spouses/families would greatly benefit from a program like this even if it was a once a month thing, OR we could turn it into a thing squadrons do, maybe even the key spouses of the squadrons.
That's about all I've got concerning the program. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me. I would be glad to help the best I can.
Thank you for your time,
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for engaging on Facebook Live and wanting to inject your positive energy and experience toward our Airmen’s most treasured partners--our military spouses. As you correctly point out, our amazing Airman & Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) team leads the way in efforts to help our military families, primarily by linking spouses to available resources for support events and groups. The A&FRC is always looking for unique function and activity ideas to incorporate into our close-knit Global Hawk community, and your involvement is always valued, welcomed and appreciated.
Being a smaller base definitely has its advantages, and Grand Forks AFB has plenty of opportunities available. For starters, aside from the aforementioned A&FRC referral and support roles, Warriors of the North spouses are encouraged to engage in the GFAFB Spouses Club as well as their squadrons’ Key Spouses groups; membership in each are great ways to team with experienced and energetic spouses who want to do positive things for all members in our community. Social media is another avenue to organize and garner support for an event you wish to see; there is rarely a shortage of willing participants for fun and fellowship. Again, thank you for your recommendations. We welcome and look forward to innovative ways of supporting our spouses, families, and all Warriors of the North.
Action Line Question: Is there any possibility in getting a second body into the Protocol shop?
Wing Leadership Response: Great question and thank you for looking out for one of our Total Force Airmen. We’re very proud of the job that our Protocol Office, led by Miss Birdie, and Public Affairs professionals do on behalf of this wing.
Unlike the past few years, including high-turnover change of command years, we’ve had an unusually high volume of distinguished visitors (DVs) over the past summer. In our opinion, the high demand to visit the Warriors of the North can be attributed to our phenomenal team and the vital missions we execute. When necessary, the Wing has detailed an officer or SNCO to assist Protocol on specific, high-visibility visits, and we’ll continue to do that into the future. I’m proud of the fact that our team effectively and professionally rose to the challenge this past summer as evinced by the accolades received from the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of the Air Force, and many other DVs.
According to the Air Force Manpower Standard, our Protocol Office is authorized one Captain/O-3 or civilian-equivalent position. Despite having only one position, the 319 ABW has thrived, using teamwork to overcome challenges. With that said, as we anticipate the probability of re-designation as a Reconnaissance Wing next year, we’re evaluating the additional level of manpower that will be required by the Protocol Office.
Action Line Question: Why is my husband not allowed to perform as an EMT in the fire department when he is certified as one?
Wing Leadership Response: Great question and one that’s come up in other forums. The quick answer to your question is because the Air Force has a specific paramedic career field whose primary duty is to function as emergency responders. The Air Force has specific schools and training to maintain certifications of these paramedics. We have a work center within our Medical Treatment Facility that performs these duties for our installation.
In very unique circumstances, installation commanders can request a waiver to allow firefighters to perform EMT duties, but the approval authority for these waivers reside with the commander of Air Combat Command with concurrence and recommendations from the Command Surgeon General and A7.
At this time, I do not feel there is a need to allow our firefighters to perform EMT duties on Grand Forks AFB.
Action Line Questions: Suggest the medical clinic closes for training/holidays on Thursdays/Tuesdays versus Fridays/Mondays. The issue numerous patients are experiencing is extended periods without care when symptoms don't warrant an ER visit but are still painful.
Wing Leadership Response: Taking Care of our patients is the 319th Medical Group’s #1 priority. We continuously strive to provide timely access to care through services provided at the MDG. When clinic is closed and a patient has a medical condition or question, the Nurse Advice Line is available to provide medical advice and authorization for care at a medical facility near the patient. The Nurse Advice Line and the partnership with the downtown medical facility give patients access to urgent care 24/7. The number for the Nurse Advice Line is 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273), Option 1.
As a side note, the MDG has training days on Friday since, historically, it is our lowest utilized day of the week for patient care.
Action Line Question: My name is Mark Sebald. I'm a retired E-8 with the U.S. Coast Guard. I was up in Grand Forks this past weekend for a wedding and had never been here before. I initially had a reservation at the Warrior Inn, but at the last minute changed it because I thought it would be a bit more convenient to stay in town. Given that, my wife and I made a trip out to have a look at your base to blow some time away. We live in Texas and have been around the U.S. A LOT and stayed at a lot of AF bases before. I can honestly say yours is the nicest we've ever seen! Everything was meticulous and well kept. Housing was spectacular, exchange was more than adequate, we saw storage facilities a small RV park etc. EVERYTHING was great! It's obvious people take great pride at you base and I'm also glad you make it nice for the folks who have to work and live there. Being from MN originally, I know how your winters are and I'm sure some people would look at your base as a bad place to be stationed however; I'll tell you, as an Aviation person myself, I'd have loved to have been stationed out there winter or not! Keep up the good work and Kudo's to ALL........
Wing Leadership Response: Great feedback from a retired Coast Guard E-8! With that said, it doesn’t surprise me. The WotN military/civilian/contractor team does a fantastic maintaining this base up to our “Warrior Standard.” As Chief Thomas and I often state, there is no place we’d rather be than Grand Forks AFB. It is truly a gem!
Action Line Question: How are Commanders at GFAFB working to improve the communication between GFAFB and Cavalier AFS? I have seen a few GSU members having difficulty reaching the right office or even in receiving a response to questions from GFAFB units. While I have seen squadrons assist by providing the option of over the phone briefings rather than driving a three hour round trip, the real concern comes from not being aware of the support they are providing to CAFS.
Wing Leadership Response: First, I am sorry to hear that you’ve been having such difficulty communicating with the base. In the short term, if the numbers to the organizations you are trying to reach are not correct on our Grand Forks AFB public webpage…
I'd encourage you to call the installation Command Post at 701-747-6711 and, if all else fails, call Chief Thomas at 701-747-4511.
The Chief and I have worked hard with Lt Col Hobbs to ensure that our Cavalier teammates are properly supported. This has included multiple trips by the Chief and I to Cavalier over the past 11 months in addition to fantastic Cavalier participation in wing events at GFAFB. Additionally, last year I mandated that my Sq/CCs visit Cavalier so as to better understand the support we provide you. We also encouraged Grand Forks civic leaders to visit Cavalier--they did and enjoyed learning about your unique mission set. Finally, the Chief and I brought the ACC/FM leadership team up there 2 weeks ago. We’re also scheduled to bring the leaders from ACC/A1 and ACC/A4S up there this summer. While the 10 SWS and Cavalier AFS are owned by AF Space Command, the staff at ACC is also interested in how ACC can better support your mission!
If you have specific concerns you’d like us to address at GFAFB, please pass them to Lt Col Hobbs who can engage the Chief and I so that we can provide you world-class support!
Action Line Question: Can you please address the fact that Commanders are failing to notify individuals of assignments within 7 days as the new process requires. I understand this requirement came from big AF but commanders are either too busy or it slips through the cracks and it degrades the integrity of the process.
Wing Leadership Response: First, I’d like to assure you that the Command Chief and I (and all our Commanders on the base) are equally frustrated. At this time, I can tell you that this is definitely NOT an issue with unit Commanders not carrying out their duties to notify in advance. The Air Force has recently come out with formal guidance, admitting that while the idea of advance 7-day assignment notifications were the right thing to do for Airmen, we failed to realize that our current suite of AFPC applications didn’t allow for it. Based on your feedback and that of others around the Air Force, the AFPC Commander, MGen Brian Kelly, released the following statement to Wing Commanders and Command Chiefs: “Finally, I wanted to let you know we have provided your FSS team with new tools to help automate the work they perform as part of the advanced assignment notification process. When we implemented this new process back in January, we knew it required additional work by your FSS to ensure timely advanced notification to Commanders. Unfortunately we did not have tools available at that time to assist your FSS teams, but have now remedied that shortfall.”
Now that we have these tools within our FSS, we are working on the training required to implement them and comply the CSAF vision of the 7-day advance assignment notification.
Action Line Question: Multiple inputs by and about the Comm Squadron.
Wing Leadership Response: In late March/early April, there were multiple inputs by and about the Comm Squadron. Some centered on the long hours they were working, and others centered on lack of timely support for routine trouble tickets. Here’s the story. Since last Fall, we’ve been preparing for the Command Cyber Readiness Inspection (CCRI)--we briefed it at my last Commander’s Call. This inspection is planned and executed by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). It’s a rigorous 2-week inspection that evaluates our cyber readiness--specifically, our ability to maintain and defend our networks. There was much work to be done. Consequently, many of our Comm Airmen went to 12-hours shifts and weekend duty in order to ensure GFAFB met (and exceeded!) the DISA standard for cyber readiness. It was a long 6-month journey. Given the workload generated by this prep, some of Comm’s customer response times for non-critical tasks may have suffered. However, it was done for the right reasons and was a course of action I fully supported.
The CCRI is over and the Warriors of the North crushed it, receiving an “Excellent” in both NIPR and SIPR—a rare feat! Of the 17 inspections done in FY17 and FY 18, we had the second-highest NIPR and third-highest SIPR score. If you remove the scores of bases who were re-testing after a failure, we had the best NIPR and second-best SIPR score.
This was a huge accomplishment by the entire installation, especially our Comm Airmen who work so hard to ensure our networks are secure. We should all be proud of these results. Moving forward, I expect the battle rhythm will return to something like normal in Comm Sq and on the base.
Thanks for your patience and mission focus!
Action Line Question: Is it possible for you to address the out-processing checklist? Multiple agencies on base require you to send them a copy of your orders even if you have no affiliation with that agency. It seems there has to be a way for the agencies to verify who has utilized them and can clear them that way. With the amount of PII vulnerabilities it just seems that sending orders isn't necessary.
Wing Leadership Response: You’re not the first Airmen to lodge this complaint. As someone who has out-processed 4 AF bases in the past 5 years, this is a process that frustrates me as well. I determined if I ever became a Wg/CC, I would do something about it. With that said, I have directed a wing-wide continuous process improvement (CPI) event that will look at our out-processing. Everything is on the table! Chief Thomas will champion the effort and I plan to start it this month.
Action Line Question: In the leave web it says we derive our authority from: 10 U.S.C., Chapter 40; 37 U.S.C., Chapter 9; EO 9397, November 1943 which was approved for the following " (j)(1) Under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense, a member of the armed forces described in subsection (i)(2) who is the secondary caregiver in the case of the birth of a child or the adoption of a child is allowed up to 21 days of leave to be used in connection with such birth or adoption." We get our authority from this U.S.C. which was approved, shouldn't this be active guidance within our Air Force? If not what is the process or procedures until this is activated in the AFI or DoD. And, in reading the U.S.C. it does say allow and not mandate. But does the approving CC have authority or an option if they so choose, to allow up to 21 days. Lastly do you have an idea of the possible approval date timeframe to take effect, if this is not approved in the Air Force already?
Wing Leadership Response: Air Force leave policy (AFI 36-3003) receives its authority from DoDI 1327.06 Leave and Liberty Procedures and 10 USC, Section 701. Specifically, 10 USC 701 states that leave not expressly authorized by law cannot be granted. The current policy on parental leave providing 10 days of leave is what was authorized by Congress and by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), therefore the AF cannot simply change the paternity leave policy as we see fit to give a member more than what is authorized.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed on 23 December 2016, changed maternity, parental and adoption leave statues in 10 USC 701. In the new statute, the Secretary of Defense was directed to prescribe regulations providing a new primary and secondary caregiver leave benefit that takes the place of existing maternity, parental and adoption leave. Since the signing of the 2017 NDAA, HAF/A1 has been involved in a working group with the multiple agencies from the Secretary of the Air Force staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and the other Services to work through the many policy and legal issues associated with developing policy that is fair and equitable for our members while complying with federal law. In September 2017, OSD staffed a draft policy for General Officer level coordination on the Military Family Leave Program (MFLP) which would implement the 2017 NDAA. Once OSD finalizes and publishes their MFLP policy, the Air Force will then be able to modify what leave is authorized in AFI 36-3003.
Action Line Question: You once said that supervisors should say thank you once in a while. Yet I have seen no proof of this. From the moment I come into work I feel as if I'm constantly messing up because my supervisors both laugh and sneer at my back. On multiple occasions I have been told that my shop chief tells other shops of my "stupidity". From the moment I walked out of the airport from my very first day here I felt as if I didn’t belong. I know that it sounds as if it's just another first term airman wanting attention and feeling "offended" but I guarantee it's not. I just feel like there should be more accountability for leadership at a shop level. My supervisors don’t follow the core values, yet they expect me to. Maybe leading by example doesn’t exist in the military anymore. Maybe it's just my shop, I can't go anywhere else because even though I've used my chain of command without skipping anyone I don’t want the repercussions that I know will follow. Help please?
Wing Leadership Response: First, I encourage you to continue using your chain of command. It’s typically the most efficient and effective way to resolve issues. If it’s your opinion that the chain of command, to date, has been unresponsive, I strongly encourage you to keep moving up the chain. While not always easy, you have the right to escalate your issues to leaders higher up the chain without fear of repercussions. As a matter of fact, if you believe your supervisors are creating a hostile work environment, I would argue its incumbent upon you to highlight this issue to someone who can adequately address the situation. I know this takes courage; however, rooting out toxic leaders (should they exist) typically requires one brave Airman to step forward. If you’re not comfortable moving step-by-step up the chain, I would encourage you to go directly to your First Sergeant or Squadron Commander who, I guarantee, would hear you out and address your situation. Should you not feel comfortable with anyone in your chain, you ALWAYS and at ANY TIME have access to the Wing Inspector General (747-4444). They stand ready to provide advice and assistance. I hope this helps. Bottom line…there is no place for toxic leadership in our AF. Where it exists, we will take necessary action to root it out.
Action Line Question: Hello! I was hoping to submit a topic for the next commander’s Facebook live video addressing questions.
We have been at this base for about a year now, and have had issues with misdiagnosis several times by the military doctors on base. At our last location, we were able to choose if we wanted to have a military pcm or civilian while having Tricare prime. After these cases of being misdiagnosed by our military pcm for myself and our daughter, I contacted Tricare to request a change in pcm’s and to ask to be assigned to a civilian doctor. Unfortunately, they said that our base has a rule that all Tricare prime beneficiaries must be seen on base, unless we ask for a waiver which is very hard to come by and are only given upon special circumstances. I was hoping that our base commander might consider changing that rule so that we are able to be seen by a civilian pcm while having prime?
Wing Leadership Response: TRICARE Prime requires all beneficiaries within 30 minutes of the MTF be assigned to a PCM at that facility. At current time, the 319th Medical Group (319 MDG) has capacity for all Prime beneficiaries. Thus, beneficiaries that select TRICARE Prime and live within 30 minutes of the 319 MDG must enroll in our clinic. Some MTFs do not have enough PCM capacity to meet the local Prime beneficiary need. In that case, beneficiaries are allowed to enroll to civilian PCMs. Non-active duty beneficiaries wishing for flexibility to be seen by a civilian primary care may enroll in TRICARE Select (recently changed from TRICARE Standard). TRICARE Select beneficiaries have access only to space available care at the MTF; however, they may use the MTF pharmacy and immunization clinic. To change your enrollment or for questions regarding enrollment options, please contact Health Net (TRICARE West Region Contractor) at 1-800-866-9378.
The 319 MDG is deeply invested in providing quality medical care to our patients. If you have concerns about the quality of care you are receiving, we want to know. Each clinic has a Patient Advocate who can address any issues or concerns and elevate it to the proper level. Please ask the respective clinic front desk to speak to the Patient Advocate. For issues not able to be resolved at the clinic level, the Medical Group Patient Advocates are MSgt Cordell Roberson and 1st Lt Inara Santora. They can be reached at 747-2124 and 747-4687 respectively. If you feel issues are not resolved or receive proper attention, contact the Chief of the Medical Staff, Maj Aaron Goodrich, at 747-5544.
If you would like to change your PCM, you can do so by contacting the TRICARE Operations flight (Cindy Arnold) at 747-5585.
Additionally, we are continually working to provide our patient’s timely access to care. Our goal is to provide as much of your care as possible within our facility to ensure continuity of your care. We realize there are times when we are not open and you may need care sooner than we can provide. In these cases the TRICARE Nurse Advise Line (1-800-TRICARE (874-2273)) is available 24/7 to answer medical questions and help guide you to the most appropriate care. As of 1 January 2018, TRICARE Prime other than active duty can be seen at Urgent Care without the need for a referral. Active Duty members continue to require a referral to be seen at Urgent Care.
Action Line Question: An idea came to me while attending the CGO lunch with you and Chief today. BTW, I really enjoyed the lunch and how much it shows that the two of care for us. Anyways, back to my idea... I didn't feel comfortable sharing it in front of everyone because I don't know the rules and regulations behind it. But, have you considered having the Global Hawk fly over base more often to make it more visible. I've been here four years and have seen it in the air three times. My kids don't even know what it is. In fact, we took our Christmas picture next to one last year and they asked me what it was. I think it would help your initiative to build the identity if we saw it more. Maybe summer bash or when everyone leaves/comes to work or other peak times of the day when more people are outside.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for your question. First, Col Spencer and I are encouraged and excited that you and your family took advantage of taking a photo late last year in front of the RQ-4 Global Hawk. We are continuing to find creative ways to connect our Airmen, Civilians, Families, and the local community to the Global Hawk mission. Most recently, the Commander changed the monthly base Newcomer’s Briefing/Orientation to include a tour of a Global Hawk for our newly assigned personnel as well as offered it up to our Spouses to attend too if they so choose to.
Unfortunately at this time and due to high Global ops tempos, you may not be able to see routine take offs and landings here at Grand Forks of the Global Hawk. Additionally, due to the sensitive nature of our missions here in support of world-wide operations, we cannot make public the aircraft flying schedule.
Action Line Question: Do you know when the memo dated 18 Aug 2016, Subject: Reducing Additional Duties, will be implemented?
Wing Leadership Response: Back in early November of last year, the Commander and I took a deep look into how we as a Wing were doing with the compliance of the aforementioned MFR on Reducing or Eliminating Additional Duties from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff.
Between the two categories of, Reducing or Eliminating, we developed a scorecard by each Squadron on base and found that there were a total of 18 Additional Duties that were identified as either eliminated or reduced. We as a Wing have been able to comply with the elimination or reduction of 10 of those Additional Duties.
The remaining 8 duties cannot currently be complied with due to either DoD direction or By-Law requirements that will require Headquarters Air Force or even Department of Defense level engagement. I’ve provided our Wing’s feedback to 25th Air Force and Air Combat Command who in turn is providing to the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
Action Line Question: Why are stratification and force distribution boards so secretive? Wouldn't it make sense to tell all Airmen what the senior leaders value? Many Airmen receive great feedback from their supervisors but don't understand why they didn't receive the rating they thought they had a chance of getting. The supervisors don’t always understand why either. Success shouldn't be a secret. Could our wing make a list of the top 5 or 10 things boards value? By telling all Airmen what we value we should produce more outstanding Airmen.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for the suggestion, but at this time the Commander and I do not have an interest in putting together such a list at the Wing Level.
So here’s the “why”….
With the exception of the Senior Rater Enlisted Force Distribution Panel, all Large Units earn their own promotion allocations of the Top 2 promotion recommendations, Promote Now and Must Promote. As such, each Squadron Commander is free, without influence from Wing or Group leadership, to develop procedures that work for their own Squadron’s EFD. Each Squadron and the functional communities they represent all have different things, performance based, that they know weigh heavier and thus it’s important for supervisors within those squadrons to provide the feedback that you mentioned above.
As a young SSgt, a piece of feedback I received still sticks with me today and I share this with all Airmen. MSgt Keith Pervall shared with me back in 2002 that feedback is a two-way street and that as an Airmen it’s a shared responsibility between the Supervisor and his/her troop. His specific guidance was to always, ‘Fight for Feedback” and I encourage all of our Airmen to do the same. I continue to speak with our Chief, Senior Master Sergeants and Master Sergeants about the importance and value of providing timely feedback to Airmen and Civilians and I wholeheartedly agree that “Success Should Not Be a Secret” as you stated above. In my opinion, the individuals best postured in most organizations to deliver great feedback resides within the work centers, flights and squadrons.
Action Line Question: The base should implement some form of electronic (LED) signs at all of the intersections on base that show yellow green or red.
Wing Leadership Response: I appreciate your concern with safety. It is important for all to know that the Commander eliminated the red/yellow/green road condition reporting for base roads. Why? There was no deliberate process or rigorous analysis behind it. Simply put, it was a judgement call that could vary depending on the individuals/leaders making the call. It also drove a considerable amount of administrative work. Instead, I now leave it to drivers to individually assess road conditions and drive accordingly. This is essentially the decision process our off-base personnel utilize. We plan to notify base personnel of deteriorating conditions when necessary, but each driver is ultimately the best judge of his/her ability to drive in certain weather conditions.
In closing, the Commander and I trust you to use good Risk Management to make the right decisions for you and your families.
Action Line Question: As promotion testing times are upon us, the base testing facility is connected to the base laundry facilities. When you walk in the bldg. the room for testing is to your right which shares a wall with the washers and dryers. This causes a huge distraction when people are doing laundry while you are taking a very important test, as the machines as well as the people sing them are very loud at times. Is it possible to move testing to the other end of the bldg. or change the testing location?
Wing Leadership Response: First….I am so glad you brought this up for us to look into. The Commander and I tell Airmen and Civilians while we are out roaming the base or during official functions that we fully understand that most assigned to the base “just assume” that we as a Wing Command team know about these kinds of issues on the installation.
The reality is we need people, like the anonymous person who typed this question, to please communicate as ask the question.
The FSS Superintendent, Chief Geary, and I will be taking a trip over to the WAPS testing center to “test” this out. If proven true, we’ll absolutely look to find both a short term and long term fix to this issue.
Update: As mentioned above in our earlier reply, I did go out and do a “Myth Buster” style event with the FSS Superintendent, Chief Geary. We and the base Testing Control Officer (TCO), Ms. Marvel, ran through an entire series of experiments starting and stopping dryers, opening and closing doors, and talking at various levels.
What we discovered is that if there are a lot of people utilizing the laundromat, you can definitely hear the opening and closing of the doors, but you cannot hear them running in the WAPS testing room. Additionally, if people are talking at a normal volume you can hear them slightly.
We’ve decided to take the following mitigation steps to ensure we maintain as noise-free an environment as possible. First, we’ll post signs on the outside of the laundromat specifying WAPS testing times with a reminder that noise can be heard inside the testing facility and to try to keep noise to a minimum. Second, if that doesn’t work, we have the ability to send a “runner” outside of the testing center to remind patrons doing laundry that folks are inside testing.
Action Line Question: The Facebook live videos are often difficult to stream from NIPR, and a transcript would help. I appreciate the efforts of the wing Commander and Chief to answer questions from the base personnel, and the transcript of the CAL has been useful. Can all of the Facebook live session transcripts be loaded to the "CAL Answers" on the GF AFB site? Thank you for your time.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for the positive comments surrounding our Facebook Live and Commander’s Action Line. One of the benefits of conducting a Facebook Live event is that once it’s complete you can view it from your home computer should you experience bandwidth issues on NIPRnet on your workplace computer. An additional benefit that not many on base are aware of is that we--or our Public Affairs section--go in after each Facebook Live event and answer all the questions that weren’t addressed during the live filming.
At this time, we do not see a compelling need to do a transcript of the Facebook Live. We’d ask that you attempt to view on your personal computer or phone as we suspect you’ll have much better results. We do appreciate the time you took to suggest it.
Action Line Question: Query: Please stop taking away the traditional ceremonies and celebrations and making everything lunch time events. Celebrations such as SNCO induction, Annual Awards, and ALS graduations are very important to capture and celebrate in a formal manner. For some, these ceremonies will be the only time they will be recognized. Some examples; ALS is the only remaining PME graduation, being nominated for an annual award of being "inducted" into a prestigious Tier group. Also, without these types of events what good is maintain a ceremonial uniform (service dress for if we don't have ceremonies because they are replaced with causal beer and sandwich's. This is why the AF has the least amount of history and heritage. #stoptakingawaytraditions
Wing Leadership Response: This is a great comment. It gives me and Chief Thomas the opportunity to give you some insight into our thinking on ceremonies. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing this.
I think what endangers our traditions is a lack of flexibility…the inability to adjust to a changing force…the inability to make traditions relevant to a new generation of Airmen. Our traditions have been slowly changing for years and will continue to do so. If we become rigid in our approach, what do our traditions mean if fewer and fewer Airmen participate in them each year?
In our opinion, here are the headwinds that dampen participation in formal evening events:
· A changing world – Airmen who, at most, used to have a TV in their dorm rooms now have access to the world in these same rooms via the Internet with gaming consoles, cell phones, tablets, etc. It has become harder to entice these Airmen out of their rooms for evening functions. It’s understandable…
· Increased ops tempo – Many Airmen, to include the Chief and I, have spent literally years away from home over our careers. Consequently, when home, Airmen are reluctant to give up their personal family time to attend evening events—time they’d rather spend with family. Wouldn’t it be great to give some of this personal time back to these Airmen? On a side note: I will rarely schedule Friday or Saturday evening Wing formal events. I believe that to do so, I’m unfairly taking a Friday or Saturday night away from Airmen and their families.
· A changing demographic – A generation ago, many SNCOs and Field Grade Officers had high-school age children or were empty-nesters. That is no longer the case. The Chief and I are a perfect example of this trend. Many of these older Airmen also have young children at home and are also reluctant to give up evenings with their children.
· Conditions specific to Grand Forks
Let’s face it, when we decide to have a formal evening ceremony, we have smaller turnouts vice daytime ceremonies. Moreover, our largest demographic (E1-E4) has the smallest representation, even when we buy down cost of tickets. However, I would agree that it is right and proper, in the some cases, that we have formal evening ceremonies.
When the Chief and I look at our ceremonies we ask, “What’s important?” Is it more important to maximize participation in the ceremony or is the formality of an evening event more important?
Bottom Line: What are we trying to accomplish with any given ceremony? The German philosopher Nietzsche taught us that “the most common form of human stupidity is forgetting what one is trying to do.”
In the case of Induction Ceremonies (which are still formal, evening ceremonies), most ALS graduations (which have all been formal, evening ceremonies until the most recent one), etc., one could argue that the formality of the occasion is more important than maximizing participation. For that, we acknowledge we’ll sacrifice participation in order to hold a formal evening event.
However, when we want to maximize participation, like for annual awards, we’ll press with a daytime event while sacrificing some formality. The Chief and I think it’s important that as many Airmen as possible celebrate our annual award nominees and witness our amazing winners.
At the end of the day, the Chief and I were serious when we voiced our commitment to give back time to our Airmen, including evenings. I trust our Airmen are professionals and don’t require the threat of a formal, evening ceremony to properly maintain dress uniforms.
With that said, in all things balance. For each ceremony, we assess “what we’re trying to do” with the ceremony, get feedback from Group Commanders, Squadron Commanders, and Senior Enlisted Leaders, make a decision, and press ahead.
Now that you have an idea what the Chief and I are thinking, if there’s a reason you disagree with a decision made for a specific ceremony, we’d love to hear your feedback and rationale.
Action Line Question: Can the Wing host a developmental seminar to inform others about how the AF assignment process works? It seems as most people stationed here are those who are OSR/CONUS mandatory movers where the BOP wasn’t approved so they were assigned here based off the Equals listing. We have an abundance of pipeline Amn who are here as well. From my experience, it seems as I get a different response on how assignments are selected depending on who I ask. I have friends in sister services and their assignment process seems a little simpler than the AF. I’m not asking that everyone gets their wishes, but it always seems like the OSR/CMM is the not so favorable location bases. I personally have friends who have been stationed at good locations for 6-10 years with no short tours but somehow are missed every quarter for a non-vol short tour.
Another issue is that functional managers are not really known to those in their AFSC. Yes, MSgt and above can call but it achieves next to nothing, again from my experience with calling and asking questions for my Amn. It would seem to benefit everyone if they had insight on how selection process works and if functional managers communicated the assignment location needs better throughout their AFSC’s and that the information flowed down to the flight level.
Wing Leadership Response: The Superintendent of our Force Support Squadron, the Career Assistance Advisor, and I meet fairly regularly to discuss potential topics to teach during our Walker Warrior Professional Development Seminar. I’m definitely interested and will speak with other Senior Enlisted Leaders from across the base to determine if there is any interest in potentially doing short class/seminar out of the PDC or the Lunch Bowl at the Education Office.
Action Line Question: I heard we are going to start removing non deployable military members. If we are hurting for more people to join, how will this affect us?
Wing Leadership Response: This is a topic that’s on the minds of many of our Airmen. At this time, we believe we have a good idea of how many Airmen might be affected by this proposed policy on Grand Forks but, admittedly, we haven’t received formal guidance from the Secretary of the Air Force or the Chief of Staff as to how, as an Air Force, we intend to comply with this DoD directive.
I’ve been told we should see formal guidance, either at the end of this week or early next, from our Air Force leaders. DoD has given the Services wide latitude to execute this policy. Specifically, Service Secretaries are authorized to grant waivers to retain service members whose period of "non-deployability" exceeds the 12-month limit.
The Commander and I ask that you be patient while our Air Force crafts service-specific guidance to implement the DoD directive. We’ll communicate Air Force guidance to your group and squadron leadership as soon as we receive it!
Action Line Question: Would there be a way to implement the text/question line into group/squadron all calls and events (commanders breakfasts)?
Why? Often times I find myself as a supervisor being asked questions that I do not have an answer for or have airmen who are not confident enough to ask the question them self. If you've ever been an Arman at a squadron commander’s breakfast it can be very awkward. Many people fear asking questions in group forums due to an innate fear of judgement or lack of self-image or confidence. This would provide an anonymous forum for the airman to use at such events. This would also provide the commanders with a larger window into the heart of their units
Wing Leadership Response: I believe you’re referencing the Slido program we use at our Wing All Calls. I’m glad you like it. We like it too! Chief Thomas and I see real value in providing Airmen the opportunity to provide inputs anonymously. It’s also why we set up the Commander’s Action Line. My team at the Wing Staff will push Slido information to my Group and Squadron Commanders and I will strongly encourage them to use it (or something like it).
Action Line Question: Why did we kill off the Air Force Ball for this year? Changing it to a “Wingding” is making a farce of tradition. Additionally, if the goal is to be more casual and not just go with tradition, why is the attire still mess dress/semi-formal? Last year’s ball was an incredible experience, and having it at the Ralph truly tied together many aspects of Grand Forks and was a phenomenal event.
Wing Leadership Response: The Commander and I also really enjoyed last year’s Air Force Ball at the “Ralph” and are glad that you thought it was phenomenal! So here’s some items that you may not be aware of that helped shape our decision regarding this year’s Air Force Birthday celebration, aka The Wingding.
Air Force Balls require a lot of planning and investment and as a result many, if not most, installations have elected to go to an every other year celebration--on the off years many bases only do a cake cutting at the Club. For us, locally, our Air Force Ball last year required a lot of fundraising with the total bill being more than 30,000 dollars, which in my and the Commander’s opinion was just too much. However, we did still want to do something this year to honor the Air Force’s 71st birthday and elected to go with the Wingding.
I know many Airmen and their Families had heard that this year’s event was going to be informal with many desiring to even attend in civilian attire. The spirit of the event being more “informal” was that the event (not the attire) would be more informal with the event not being a plated sit-down dinner with a guest speaker.
We do plan on having a more traditional Air Force Ball next year and shortly after this year’s event concludes we’ll begin planning for that event. We hope that with your passion for more traditional Air Force Balls that you’ll consider volunteering to help us plan that event next year.
Action Line Question: My name is TSgt Jason Estes, from the 69th MXS. The exercise we just had was fantastic for readiness training. The Self-Aid Buddy Care station was fantastic. I think there is some room for improvement in the station. The SABC station had its volunteers bring in their personal nerf guns. Nerf weapons were fantastic idea but they have some limitations. Most nerf guns are breach load and slow rate of fire. I have a suggestion for this as well as another item.
Suggestion: Base owned nerf weapons. There are modification kits and companies/personnel that increase the power, speed and reliability of nerf weapons. There are also kits for the exterior to make them look like common real weapons such as AR-15’s and AK-47’s. The base could purchase 10 AR-15’s and 10 AK-47 kits and have the mods done to increase the power/speed of the weapons to make them more functional for training. These two sets could be used by teams and OPFOR. I know some companies that do mods and could put together some quotes on modded nerf guns and get the exterior kits lined up as well. The reason I suggest 10 of each is to make sure we have spares and enough to support multiple stations in exercises/readiness training.
Suggestion: Next readiness exercise have combat/base defense station. This would include setting up a DFP from sand bags (or pillows for less messy for use indoors), defending the base from attack, sign/counter sign. This could be done like basic training’s Warrior week. The nerf weapons would be perfect for use here.
Wing Leadership Response: I'm glad to hear your positive feedback about the recent Readiness Challenge. Medical Group led a great SABC station, and their use of Nerf guns added an element of fun to the event. When it comes to using weapons for training value, there are three options that we would typically use to incorporate duty weapons into an exercise. These include using rubber weapons to simulate size/weight of actual duty weapons; using modified barrels on duty weapons to fire "paintball" rounds; or using duty weapons with a flash suppressor to fire blank rounds. Each has its pros/cons and unique training value, however we typically use one of these options when we want to add weapons realism to an exercise.
Regarding your suggestion to incorporate base defense into exercises, I think you'll be pleased with our September exercise. Our Readiness Exercise Planning Team is developing a scenario for the scheduled 10-14 Sep 18 ATSO Rodeo. The current plan includes training on defensive fighting positions, land navigation, and radio communications in addition to the more familiar
CBRNE defense/response topics. Stay tuned as we further develop this scenario...I'm really looking forward to another great wing exercise event!
Action Line Question: Is there a way to get consistent hours at the golf course? It seems that most days they close earlier because of no customers and then it leaves people who are trying to golf near their closing hours where it starts to get cooler in the day stranded and not able to golf.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for bringing this to our attention and it did result in a great conversation with the Golf Course Manager, Mr. Ken Septon. He was able to confirm that there are time where at 1830, the decision has been made to close 30 minutes early due to a lack of customers. For reference the golf course closes at 1900. He went on to say that early in the year when the golf course opens, there are golfers who come out later in the day, but as the summer goes on, fewer and fewer golfers go out in the 1800 to 1900 timeframe.
He appreciated the feedback and for the remainder of the season, until 1 October, when the golf course will close, he’s going to have his staff stay until 1900.
In light of his data regarding customer use of the golf course, I did encourage him to take a look at next year’s golf hours of operation to see if it still makes sense to remain open until 1900 everyday considering the lack of use of the golf course from 1800 to 1900.
Action Line Question: Upon returning from a 21 day TDY I was given then "Re-deployment" checklist because I was on CED orders. The checklist includes reintegration briefings that extend the amount of time it takes to finish in processing. Perhaps putting a "greater than 59 days" requirement on some of the blocks could help. This would speed up the process for units which frequently send members on short TDYs using CED orders.
Wing Leadership Response: Thanks for highlighting your concerns. I value our re-deployers time and want to ensure that any required in-processing is applicable and time well spent. The current Redeployment In-Processing Checklist identifies the agencies that redeploying members are required to visit upon return, although not every agency is applicable to each individual. To your point, the checklist points out that only members who deploy on CED orders for 31 days or more have to attend the reintegration briefing at A&FRC. If you believe you received an outdated or inaccurate copy of the checklist, please notify the Installation Personnel Readiness (IPR) office (Bldg 523, 747-6382) so we can correct this.
According to AFI 10-403 the FSS/CC is the OPR for reintegration efforts in coordination with the IDO and the CAB. A copy of the current Redeployment In-Processing Checklist is provided (attached).
Action Line Question: My comment is about the lack of acknowledgement from the base leadership in regards to the hardships that the base populous had to endure during due to lack of comm support during the 319 CS CCRI prep. Tickets were almost entirely ignored, NOTAMs detailing disruption to services due to efforts were nearly non-existent and usually after the fact, and many of the corrective actions caused self-inflicted issues. Frustrations were very high and many lost significant working hours to go behind the corrective actions and restore services. Many of these frustrations are still high and much of the trust has been lost. Suggest that a public message be delivered acknowledging that much was neglected during the CCRI prep, that customer frustrations are valid, and thanks for the patience.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for the suggestion and in fact we’ve already answered this question on a previous Commander’s Action Line response that I would encourage you to take a look at in its entirety when you have a moment.
In response to this previous CC Action Line query regarding Comm responsiveness in the lead-up to the CCRI, Col Spencer stated, “Given the workload generated by this prep, some of Comm’s customer response times for non-critical tasks may have suffered. However, it was done for the right reasons and was a course of action I fully supported…Thanks for your patience and mission focus!”
For the suggestion in particular, Col Spencer and I have both publically acknowledged that the success of the CCRI would not have been possible without ALL the men and women assigned to Grand Forks.
Leadership is about setting priorities given limited resources and then communicating these priorities. We communicated our CCRI priorities to the base populace during our Winter All Call in order to prepare the Wing. Your Group and Squadron Commanders/Superintendents received monthly and then weekly status updates as we closed in on the inspection, to include wait times for non-critical tasks and the plan to address them after the CCRI. Finally, Col Spencer sent out an e-mail to the base on 20 April thanking the entire Warrior of the North team for pulling together to achieve a level of excellence rarely seen in our AF over the past 3 years.
Our engagement across the base regarding CCRI has already been significant. If you’re still having residual Comm issues that are a result of the bandwidth consumed to prep for CCRI, I would ask that you flow them up through your chain of command so we can promptly address them.
Cyber readiness is a team sport! Our Comm professionals remain dedicated to providing you exceptional service and are constantly seeking ways to improve their operations. As of a month ago, I have a cyber readiness meeting every Friday. As I learn more about cyber, I appreciate how tough Comm’s job truly is and will continue to support their efforts to provide world-class service to the Warriors of the North.
Action Line Question: Please reinstate at least 1 Wg Training Day per quarter for the Flight or Squadron to use as they deem fit to actually get functional training accomplished. While readiness is an AF priority, we are taking away valuable time that was previously dedicated toward making our Airmen serving in-garrison as proficient as possible in their primary duties. We are now having to do training outside of duty time and failing to meet our senior leaders' objectives to give our Airmen back their time and revitalize our squadrons.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for the suggestion and as we move more into the Fall you will see certain months will not be fully dedicated to readiness/deployment/ATSO training. However, the Commander and I know that, with few exceptions, most of our Airmen are not directly involved in this readiness training, especially during the “micro exercises” where only a few squadron members participate.
From our time in leadership at both Maintenance Groups and Maintenance Squadrons, we typically told our Flight and Section leaders that the majority of both upgrade and proficiency training should in fact take place NOT on training days. Training requires daily planning and execution--if we’re waiting for training days to train, we’ll never have enough time. Optimizing how we train as Airmen is a challenge that the Wing Commander has given to all his Group and Squadron Commanders.
Action Line Question: Why are support functions, such as Medical and Finance, allowed to have training days during the regular duty week? These functions are meant to support the Airmen. However, their ability to assist the Airmen is severely hindered when they are closed several times a month. Why can't regular tour of duty workers have their training days on a day off? This could be easily accomplished as many shift workers have to conduct their training on days off.
Wing Leadership Response: Thank you for the concern. I do completely understand your complaint as a Chief who spent the majority of his career working Swing and Mid Shift on the flight line.
However in looking at the preponderance of personnel assigned to Grand Forks, the overwhelming majority of personnel (over 90%) work on dayshift. As such it really does make more sense to host training days on dayshift for both the FSS, CPTS, and Medical Group.
Action Line Question: I believe the AF Ball is a huge part of our tradition. Rumor is we are turning it into a wingding with ABUs. I'm hoping this is all a rumor, but can you please let us know the status of this time honored event?
Wing Leadership Response: As you’re likely aware, Air Force Ball’s require a lot of planning and investment and as a result many, if not most, installations have elected to go to an every other year celebration for the Air Force Ball and on the off year’s many bases only day a cake cutting at the installation’s club. For us locally, our Air Force Ball last year required a lot of fundraising with the total bill being more than 30,000 dollars which in mine and the Commander’s opinion was just too much. However, we did still want to do something this year to honor the Air Force’s 71st birthday and elected to go with the Wingding in mess dress.
Question #1: (posed to Mrs. Goldfein) - What can be done to make moving less stressful for AF families?
Answer: Mrs. Goldfein described her own experience with moving over 20 times, and the challenges for their family. She emphasized that the Air Force is working to hold carriers accountable for poor service and asked that we all fill out our surveys after completing a move. She also announced new policy changes which will increase the number of Household Goods shipments that get inspected (50% is the DoD standard, but the USAF will inspect 80% of moves), along with a requirement for in-person briefs for members prior to shipments. We hope this will make members better informed on the process and improve the quality of services we receive during moves. However, Mrs. Goldfein challenged all of us to volunteer to sponsor a new arrival on the base, and welcome our new family members with as much warmth and compassion as we can give them. We’ve seen how a good sponsor can make all the difference in making an assignment fun from the very first moments on the base.
Question #2: (Posed to A/SECAF and CSAF) – How are we doing with efforts to improve privatized housing?
Answer: Both Acting SECAF and CSAF emphasized that the health and well-being of Airmen and their families is commander business. They highlighted the implementation of online work orders at several bases and made it clear that tracking work orders was essential to improving service. At GFAFB, we have an online forum for submitting work orders, and you can track the status of this work while you await its completion. This is very important, and the system is fairly easy to use. As always, you can call the housing office directly in the case of an emergency, and complete paperwork later, but this for routine work, this electronic forum is very important. The senior leaders today also discussed their efforts to develop a “Tenant’s Bill of Rights” to inform members on what to expect from privatized housing.
Question #3: (Posed to A/SECAF) – What can you do about BAH rates which might not reflect our actual costs of living in a given area?
Answer: The Defense Comptroller works for the Secretary of Defense, not the Air Force, so there’s not much the A/SECAF could promise, other than a periodic review of each area in accordance with the published schedule for BAH updates / revisions. It’s been a few years since our rates were reviewed in Grand Forks, so we hope to see this policy revision soon, but in the meantime, the 319 Comptroller Squadron is working with our Mission Support Group leadership to create an information sheet on BAH/TLE issues for those airmen arriving at GFAFB. We will be sure to advertise on GFAFB websites, through sponsorship, and at Newcomers and FTAC meetings when this information is available.
Question #4: (posed to CMSAF Wright and CSAF) – How can we recruit more women into the Air Force?
Answer: CMSAF Wright discussed the importance of action, as opposed to words, and CSAF immediately joined with a story about his own daughter. Essentially, the story was about the first time she saw a female in a flight suit, and asked her father if it was really possible for females to fly fighters. He said that he had told her several times that she could do anything including flying fighters, but that it wasn’t real to her until she saw a person she could relate to in that role. The example made all the difference. For that reason and many more, it is important that we retain the members we have successfully recruited. CSAF said we’ve made great progress this year on getting better fitting gear and uniforms for female Airmen. Women have been wearing men’s gear and uniforms for far too long. This is essential to our future.
Question #5: (posed to Mrs. Wright) - How can we better prepare our key spouses to serve in this important role?
Answer: Mrs.Wright spoke elegantly about the importance of this form of service to our AF communities. She described some new online courses that were available through Airman and Family Readiness Centers that would make key spouse training available to remote members, or those shut in by bad weather (OK, I added that part). Nothing will replace the face-to-face contact that makes relationships work in real life, but this is a great first step, and one that many key spouses will welcome.
Question #6: (posed to CMSAF) – What are we doing to address the suicide rates in the USAF?
Answer: The Air Force recently implemented a Resilience Tactical Pause, which directed an assessment from every member to address the importance of this issue. We know that the culture within the squadron will help airmen ask for help when they need it. We need to be great listeners, and adapt to whatever means of communicating our Airmen will feel comfortable with. He highlighted a spontaneous group on social media (af wingman outreach) which provides support and testimonials to Airmen who want to share their stories of resilience.
Question #7: (Posed to CMSgt Wright) – Shouldn’t we remove the question on our Security Form #86 (security screening questionnaire) about if you’ve ever been treated for mental illness? Doesn’t that inhibit people from seeking help?
Answer: Chief Wright indicated that we need the question on this form for important reasons to protect national security. However, he said that the thing that truly inhibits reporting is a lack of trust in how we will handle the answer to that question when it’s positive. It is up to all of us to ensure that we don’t over-react to the fact that lots of people seek help, and it doesn’t affect their clearances in any way. The important message is that you are far less likely to have a problem with your job if you seek help early. Avoiding the necessary treatment only allows problems to grow, which makes them more of a threat to our jobs and security clearances.
Question #8: (Posed to Mrs. Goldfein) – What can be done to improve Spouses’ ability to transfer professional licenses when they move to a new state?
Answer: Mrs. Goldfein described her own struggles with transferring her credentials as a teacher during their 21 moves. She said that spouses can get re-imbursed for licensing costs up to $500 for every qualifying move. Spouses can even file a claim all the way back to December 2017 for a previous move where you had to pay licensing fees to work in a new location. A&FRC has info on this program, but thankfully, the state of North Dakota has already made great strides on removing licensing barriers by including license reciprocity in recent legislation that was signed into law. North Dakota is truly leading the nation on this, thanks in part to the great support from our community leaders in Grand Forks.
Question #9: (Posed to CSAF) – What can be done to weed out toxic leaders?
Answer: Lots can be done, and we’re serious about getting rid of toxic leaders at every level. General Goldfien described the sacred duty of leadership as a critical element of what we value in an officer. We have no tolerance for an officer that is not able to lead Airmen based on an example of excellent moral character. He emphasized this as a point of focus in our upcoming Wing Commanders’ Conference, and was deadly serious in his tone when he said he’s committed to removing toxic leaders from our ranks.
Question #10: (Posed to Mrs. Wright) What can you tell us about respite care?
Answer: Respite care is designed to assist families enrolled in our Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) with specialized short term child care for temporary stress relief. Mrs. Wright indicated that she expected to see an increase beyond the current 12 hour authorization very soon, but urged EFMP families to check in with A&FRC to see about availability in our area.
Question #11: (Posed to A/SECAF) – “Do I have to PCS 21 times like General Goldfein in order to be successful?”
Answer: Secretary Donovan described the importance of broad experience among the members of our General Officer Corps. CSAF weighed in to assert that the officer development categories will make frequent moves less important, by allowing officers to stay in their primary career field longer, without penalties. However, he emphasized that frequent moves would still be necessary in certain career fields.
Question #12: (Posed to CMSgt AF) – What changes can we expect in our USAF Physical Fitness Assessment?
Answer: CMSAF Wright indicated that he’s conducting a review of how we conduct PT Tests. He wants to explore ideas like giving members credit for passing a mock PT test or separating the abdominal circumference measurement from the run (we’ve already moved out on this in some cases). CSAF also wanted to weigh in on this question. He emphasized the clear expectation that commanders at all levels should comply with fitness standards and enforce them. If you’re a commander, he said, you’re on notice…lead from top down. Your fitness program is a graded event and you will be evaluated.
Question #13: (Posed to Mrs. Goldfein) What can be done to improve the quality of education for our children?
Answer: Few efforts will be more important to our members than protecting the education of their children. We are changing how School Liaison Officers (SLOs) are organized to get after school issues. We will soon be aligning them with the child & youth services, rather than the A&FRCs. We hope this change will improve the consistency of the training they receive, as well as enabling them to spend more time with the students.