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TOWN HALL MEETING MAY 16

TOWN HALL MEETING ON MAY 16, 2013

The purpose of this feedback is to provide a record of questions asked during the town hall meeting to be considered as changes are implemented throughout the wing.

Question: How do I sign up for MiCare?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • I have made it mandatory for all active-duty members to be registered in MiCare, and I would highly encourage all family members to get registered if applicable
  • It provides secure email access to your physician which allows you to communicate with them directly, ask questions and receive answers electronically, view lab results, get prescriptions refilled, schedule appointments online, and so on
  • (Col Thompson) You need to be empaneled to the medical group in order to utilize MiCare; in order words, your primary care provider must be in the medical group for you to sign up for MiCare; if this incentivizes you to return to the medical group for your primary care provided [from an off-base physician], we will be happy to take you back
  • You cannot sign up through the website or using a link, you must first register through the medical group, either during the town hall meeting (medical group representatives are present and can register you), at the health fair on base on Friday, May 17, or by visiting the medical center
Question: What do I do about abandoned vehicles left on base?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • If there are any abandoned vehicles out there that still remain, report them to Security Forces so they can have them towed off base; they may be a security concern
Question: What are the long and short-term plans to address the lack of a Catholic Chaplain on base?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • There is a shortage of Catholic priests, not only in the military, but across society; there are currently 20 Air Force wings without a Catholic priest
  • We must provide support to our service members, and many priests are deployed, offering spiritual support to our troops in the field
  • Short-term plan: Currently, a Catholic priest is brought on base from downtown Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. to provide a service; while that deals with the family needs, that does not deal with the day-to-day worship needs we have for our Catholic folks on base
  • Long-term plan is a Headquarters Air Force plan that is in action; I wish I could tell you what that will be, but we can't bring people into the Air Force as Catholic priests when they are not available to us, and as I mentioned, there has been a decrease in the number of Catholic priests across society in general
  • I can't give you a 100-percent solution or the date when we will get a Catholic priest, but I can tell you that it is an Air Force priority to support our troops-specifically those who are deployed, so that's why you see fewer at home-because they're out in the field with our troops, providing them the service and support that they need on a daily basis
  • I have been talking with the command chaplain at Air Combat Command and Headquarters Air Force to continue working to identify a solution
  • Again, I understand that this doesn't not provide a long-term or 100-percent solution, as our priority is to provide support to our service members and families on a day-to-day basis, but there are a lot of great Catholic services in the community on Saturday evenings and Sundays
Question: Can we look into the possibility of getting a restroom facility near the park at Montana?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • I have discussed this possibility with our civil engineering folks
  • (Maj Sokora) We are looking into it, determining the cost-benefit analysis, and perhaps a porta-potty would be an option
Question: What can be done about cars entering the base on weekends with multiple people in tow who are not being checked into the Visitor's Control Center?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • This is unacceptable in today's force protection condition
  • (Maj Bass) If you see this occur, note the date and time and report it to Security Forces
  • Do me a favor; if you see that happen-I want you to stop, look the guard in the eye and ask for his or her name, and report it; we can look at video camera footage to determine whether or not that guard is properly doing their job
  • Let me address the bigger picture issue; I believe that as a service and a nation, we have let our guard down in terms of security; right now, we are in force protection condition Alpha, which means we are on heightened alert based on the potential for a terrorist attack or event to occur on this base; please remember we are not at FPCON "normal"
Question: We understand that extra benefits must be cut due to the lack to funding. Is there any way to close one base pool and keep one open? Possibly cut other programs? Maybe use volunteer lifeguards? Increase the cost of family passes?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • All of those suggestions have been considered; we are not allowed to use volunteer lifeguards, per Air Force instruction
  • I asked the question early on, can we accept donations from the community to fund some of these operation costs, but the answer is no
Follow-up question: If you close the pool, you will also harm the food court, the Base Exchange, the commissary, because we won't be using the nearby pool, so we won't shop at those locations. Will the hours of the facilities be shortened, or will you eventually close those, as well?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Those are not Dyess Air Force Base assets, and the wing does not receive money for those; the gas station, the commissary and the BX are owned and operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service
  • I understand that they may be impacted, but I do not have funds for those programs or facilities; I anticipate little effect, because people don't often go swimming and then go to the food court in the BX to eat
Follow-up question: Other bases have managed to keep their pools open. For example, at Kirtland Air Force Base, the pool is privatized. Is this an option?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • If their housing is privatized and has a pool, that is different; when our housing becomes privatized, they may build a pool
Follow-up question: Why build another pool?
  • (Maj Sokora) We must compare apples to apples; for example, if Quail Hollow has a pool, it is their contractor's responsibility to pay for and maintain it---it is the contractor's call, whether or not to build a pool in our on-base housing when it becomes privatized, as it may incentivize people to live on base
Follow-up question: If a privatized pool was developed on base, it would likely only be available to the residents of base housing. Would the Army and Air Force Exchange Service consider contracting the pool?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • AAFES may not be interested in contracting the pool if these is no financial benefit to them, but I can speak with them about this suggestion; we would first need to look into the associated localities
Follow-up question: Have you looked at a cost-benefit analysis of keeping the pool open?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • We have run the numbers; last year, with all of the families that purchased pool passed, the pool brought in approximately $30,000; bottom line: it is a money loser, particularly when the installation does not receive any funds to pay for the pool-you have to pay people to run it, you must pay for equipment, chemicals, and so on
  • We've done the math, and after many, many years of running pools, we know what it costs the government to do this; we kept it open for a long time because we were subsidized until October 1, 2012; we received $350,000 of extra funds from Air Combat Command to do these kinds of services-on October 1, that money went away; then sequestration hit-sequestration is a huge bill for all government entities to pay-$50 billion of which, the Department of Defense is responsible for
  • The DOD has asked us to prioritize doing the mission first, and the things we like to do and ought to do must be reconsidered; the wing does not receive money for the pool, the golf course, the bowling alley, or a lot of things that people have suggested we take funds from to put toward keeping the pool open-these services must stand on their own-they must pay for themselves, or they will go by the wayside
  • I must make some tough decisions; unfortunately, I must be the bad guy in order to spend money in a fiscally-responsible manner for our government
Question: What is the new date for the privatization housing?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Tentatively, July, but that is optimistic.
Question: Are you allowed to fill up a ["kiddie" or "wading"] swimming pool in base housing?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • No, not at Dyess. Historically, allowing folks to have pools on base results in a safety hazard. Additionally, the supply of running water is expensive, and it becomes a breeding ground for insects.
  • I have been asked if we can place small, wading pools in a public area where they can be utilized under parental supervision. We are looking into that option.
  • (From the crowd) May I suggest that when the sprinklers are on in your yard, watering your lawns, you allow your children to run through them?
  • (Maj Sokora) That's a great idea. Slip and slides are another great alternative when they are used under parent supervision.
Question: Are the bowling alley and golf course currently [financially] stable and sustainable?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • The bowling alley and golf course go in cycles. They tend to lose money [in the winter] and then make money [in the summertime], and ultimately break even for the year. We're not trying to make money, but they do need to break even in order to sustain themselves.
  • Bottom line: the morale, welfare and recreation fund must be profitable and sustainable.
Follow-up question: What about the non-appropriated fund facilities?


  • (Col O'Brien) If they're non-appropriated fund facilities, they are funded using a different pot of money. There is a NAF council that does not consist of our Force Support Squadron members who votes on how to spend money over $5,000-it is a voting council; typically, Chief Lindsey takes part, our Comptroller Squadron folks sit on the council, along with a couple other people; decisions are not made by one person; there is a group of people who discuss what the smartest way to spend money is; now more, than ever, we take extra care in examining how we spend money to make sure we are spending responsibly
Question: Can spouses reach out to the community and conduct fundraisers to reopen and finance the pool?

Answer: (Col O'Brien)
  • We do have a lot of people downtown who want to help; we are working with the city of Abilene to work out a program that may include vouchers to use community pools affordably
  • Regulations dictate that we cannot use money from donations to pay for lifeguards or fund the repairs or maintenance of base facilities
  • (Col VanHerck) I intend to ask my boss and my boss' boss if, during these trying fiscal times, we can make adjustments to allow us to take money from folks who want to help us; right now, it is against regulation to accept money that is donated to cover operating costs
  • (From the audience) The big answer is to vote!
Question: Have you looked at having vendors, through AAFES run the pool?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • This was not an option this year due to the timeline that the decision had to be made to close the pools, but it's certainly an option we can look into for next year
  • (Col O'Brien) There may be other ways to do business differently, but we have to do business right, too; there are many different options on the table for next year
Question: Can a survey be conducted to determine how much families are willing to pay next year to have access to a base pool? Perhaps people will be willing to pay more?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • (Col O'Brien) For the outdoor pools, we looked at these options, but there was a large amount of money that we would have needed to make up for by charging more for the passes; about $100,000 [to keep just one pool open]
  • Budget cuts have forced Air Force installations to make tough choices, shifting resources that support "like to do" and "ought to do" things in order to pay for the "must do" challenges, and while the outdoor pools can be a great benefit, they're not a mission-critical or "must do" expense
Question: Are there any plans to repair the rotted fences on base?

Answer: (Maj Sokora)
  • Will get with these folks to see what can be done
Question: I rely on the trumpets at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on base. Why it is the national anthem not played on a regular basis on the installation? It's confusing.

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Reveille, retreat and the national anthem are played on base every duty day at 7:30 a.m., 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Giant voice systems are turned off during exercises so as not to disrupt base housing so that the sirens going off during these exercise don't wake anyone up at night; I did notice that after a recent exercise, the sound systems were not turned back on, but I called Command Post, who was directed to turn them back on, and they've been on every duty day since; duty days do not include weekends, holidays or down days
Question: Will residents be able to get grass aids from self help this year?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • No, due to lack of funds available
Question: Can the playgrounds be covered in housing? If not, could the youth center playgrounds be opened to residents of housing after hours or on weekends?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • (Mr. Carley) The youth center playgrounds are secured for a reason; so the use by members of the youth center or school-aged programs that take place during the day; in actuality, if they playgrounds were to be open during the evenings, we would have to provide staff, and there are ratios [of children to staff members] that have to be considered as well
  • Although this could be an option, we currently do not have funding to support requests such as this
  • (Mr. Carey) The youth center playgrounds are secured as they are only to be used by members of the youth center or school-age programs; If the playgrounds were to be open during the evenings, we would have to provide staff, which in turn we would have to charge a fee. Additionally, there are ratios [of children to staff members that vary according to different age groups] that must be considered.
  • Currently, funding is not available to support requests such as this.
Question: When are all of the squadrons getting their personnelists?

Answer: (Lt Col Welcome)
  • Squadrons who have earned the additional commander support staffs (3Ds) now have them
  • We don't have anything from Air Force Personnel Training to provide direction on when these folks will receive personnel training and when the official changes from "3Ds" to "3Ss" will take place
Question: How are missions like flying being affected by sequestration?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Thirty percent of our combat Air Force has had to stop flying, yet we spent the majority of our time talking about pools; while I would like to have pools, I must defend our nation; things like training and TDYs have been impacted; retirement benefits are likely going to change, too-we cannot afford the retirement system for this country long-term
  • When our nation is under 17 trillion dollars of debt, we need to move beyond concern for the like-to-do things; you could do away with the Department of Defense for 25 years, and not fund anything, and we still would not be able to pay off that kind of debt
  • Many people are not aware that facility maintenance has been cut with the exception of emergencies; it was deferred this year, but the bill will have to be paid at some time; the quality of life for our members will suffer eventually
Question: The repainting of the roads at the intersections of 5th and Avenues B and C has left some ambiguity about the presence or discontinuation of a turn lane. Is there a way to enhance the new paint to clarify the median or turn lane designation?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Civil Engineer Squadron has that for action to reduce the ambiguity and take care of that issue
Question: Quail Hollow is charging folks $1,000 for cleaning prior to moving out. Is this permissible?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • My guess is that if the condition of the unit is so dirty and damaged that it requires that cleaning fee, Quail Hollow is probably within their rights to charge that fee
  • However, there are legal services available to combat that, as well, if the condition of the home does not warrant such a fee
  • Please contact base housing and file a complaint if this occurs inappropriately, as base housing has not been made aware of this, but can provide help
Question: What is the role of a first sergeant?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • The first sergeant is the commander's line for good order and discipline, and to protect the health, morale welfare of a service member, not to be a liaison for the spouse or family members, although they will oftentimes help
  • (First Sergeant, SMSgt Kish) The role of a first sergeant: we wear a lot of different hats; we provide guidance to the commander, recommend disciplinary action when appropriate, conduct quality force indicator checks within the units when it comes to promotion recommendations, awards, and things of that nature; one of the other hats that we wear is provide a mission-ready force for the commander or the unit; in other words, take stresses off of the spouses and family members so the service member can concentrate on the mission; we do so with the help of a lot of other agencies on base; for example, the Airman & Family Readiness Center
Question: When will the RV park be opening?

Answer: (Col O'Brien)
  • Not soon enough! Once the RV park opens up, Outdoor Recreation will make more money!
  • Looking at the end of June; the dates has been pushed back due to delays caused by weather, so that date is contingent upon cooperation by the weather
Question: Could the money put toward the Heritage Club be moved to the Hangar Center when it (the Heritage Club) closes?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • The Heritage Club kitchen has been shut down [from serving meals] due to concerns about public health; that's why we don't do any cooking at the Heritage Club
  • $125,000 is needed at the Heritage Club to make it meet standards for public health, but there is no money available to bring it into compliance
  • There is no money to take from the Heritage Club and put toward the Hangar Center; this is not an option; membership rates for the club is only about 15%, and the club has become a money loser
Question: Why was a Starbucks brought in and located a block away from the café at the Base Exchange that makes flavored copies? The perception is that Force Support Squadron is trying to shut down cafes.

Answer: (Force Support Squadron)
  • The Starbucks plan was initiated over six years ago, but at that time, we were unable to move forward with the plan; the initial plan was to put a Starbucks in the hospital coffee shop, and to also put in a nice coffee shop with ice cream and pastries where Black Box pizza is now; instead, AAFES put in Black Box Pizza and the coffee shop in the hospital, so we had to move forward with our secondary plan, which is why the Starbucks is now located in the Hangar Center
Question: Can families use the indoor pool?

Answer: (Col O'Brien)
  • Families can use the indoor pool during normal orders, and we are also considering a kid-swim time.
  • We have financial challenges with the indoor pools, just like we do with the outdoor pools, but we have a little more time to work through those challenges. We don't yet know what funding will be available for Fiscal Year 2014.

Question: In talking about fiscal responsibility, has any thought been given to reducing extra benefits such as basic housing allowances and subsistence for members with dependents? No other organization gives an incentive to have a family.

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • BHA and BAS are intended to offset the cost of living depending upon where you live; they are not necessarily benefits
  • It is more cost-effective than providing everyone across the Air Force, regardless of where they live, with one lump sum to pay for housing; while it doesn't cost $3,000 a month to rent a house in Abilene, it may cost that much in California or Washington D.C.
Question: Have you considered the possibility of building speed bumps near the school zone?

Answer: (Maj Sokora)
  • Yes, we have looked at that, but it came down to cost again, and we cannot put speed bumps in at this time
Follow-up question: In that case, can we come up with a volunteer program to ensure the safety of children while they use the crosswalks by the school during the school year?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Yes, we would be happy for you to have a volunteer program; thank you for offering to do that
Question: Is our commissary closing?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • Dyess and the 7th Bomb Wing do not own or operate the commissary, so I will allow a representative from the commissary to answer that question
  • (Rick Newport) At this time, we have received no direction that we will be closing, but we are under fiscal constraints, just like everybody else, and I expect we will hear by next month if there will be any changes to the commissary's hours or days of operation
Question: Is there any way to open the Hangar Center or Heritage Club bars on the weekend nights?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • They are open on Fridays, and the Hangar Center bar is also open a few times during the week
  • (Col O'Brien) The Hangar Center bar, the Bomb Shelter, which is a really cool space, is open on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, and the Heritage Club bar is open on Fridays; at this time, there are no plans to expand those hours, although during football season, the Hangar Center is open on Sundays so folks can watch those games, as well; this is due finances-we track that information and how many people use those facilities; on average, there are 144 people who use the Bomb Shelter, and about 60 each month who use the Heritage Club bar
Follow-up question: Would the [Heritage and Hangar Center] clubs make more money if the flight crew squadron heritage rooms were closed?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • No, because the heritage rooms don't earn large sums of money, either
  • However, while it would be great if our Airmen in flight-suits to spend time out amongst everyone else on the weekend evenings, at the Heritage Club and Hangar Center bars, as is-the heritage rooms do not sell anything-those squadron provide food and drink for themselves
Follow-up question: What if the Hangar Center bar were open on Friday and Saturday nights? That way, the folks who live in the dorms who are of legal age could go there, instead of off base? Perhaps they could even use volunteer bartenders?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • While this is a good idea, I have to disagree, because the numbers show that people are going to go downtown, anyway; the bar is open every Friday, and the people who use it are not our dorm residents-it's old people like me!
  • (Col O'Brien) What we did try a couple of times were all-nighters at the club, where people could come after the bars closed downtown around midnight-especially for Airmen who are coming back on base to return to the dorms; we did three of these all-nighter events on base last year-the first one was a success, there were a few squadrons there in full-force, the second was less so, and the third had zero participation
  • If it's cost beneficial to do those events, we can, but when people don't show, we can't afford to put them on
Question: How do you keep Airmen motivated when times get rough?

Answer: (Chief Lindsey)
  • We have to keep on moving; to a certain extent, based on some of the things we've spent time talking about tonight, I think we've become spoiled; we've become accustomed to some of the benefits and services that have become available during the last two decades-right now, we're in a time of struggle and we're adjusting to it; people should not get mad when they hear about cuts that were going to affect them-they should get mad when they hear about things that are going to effect the mission and the force-but we'll get through it
  • (Col VanHerck) The bottom line for our young folks and for everybody is that we live in the best country on the planet; we serve the best Air Force in the world; we're talking about minor things right now, like pools-that shouldn't drag our people down-let me worry about those things. Our Airmen need to worry about doing the best they can at the job that they currently have on a daily basis-and they'll be successful in this Air Force. I would tell them not to worry about the other trivia that they don't have control over.
Question: With regard to flying hour cuts, what impacts do you think that will have for Dyess in the future?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • I'm not sure I can answer that entirely; right now, we are blessed at Dyess to still be training and flying in preparation of a deployment this summer; our weapons school has been impacted, though-they have had to cancel their next class and terminate their current class early to save money; we will feel the effects of those changes for years to come
  • What could happen is that when our operational squadron returns from their upcoming deployment, they may have to stand down and cease flying for a period of time-that is still to be determined; the large-picture impact is that our ability to react to an unforeseen crisis or act of war would be degraded-that's what concerns me most; and we will be ready, but it may take us more time to get spun up and trained
Follow-up question: What about gate months?

Answer: (Col VanHerck)
  • That is a great question, and I'll have to look into it. A lot of you probably don't know what gate months are, but it has to do with making sure our aircraft operators can fly; it doesn't matter for older folks like me, but it is important for our younger people
  • I will find an answer for you
Question: Can we look into the possibility of getting a restroom facility near the park at Montana?

Answer: (Col O'Brien)
  • Our civil engineer team took a look at this, and a single porta-potty will cost $65 per month/$780 per year, based on weekly servicing. Although that doesn't seem like much, the number could quickly grow, based on additional requests. With around 15 park/playground areas in Military Family Housing, the annual cost would be just under $12K to have a porta-potty at every park. Thank you for your question, but based on the current constrained fiscal environment, placing restroom facilities or port-potties near the children's parks is not financially feasible at this time.
Question: Can the north and south ends of 5th Street be repainted to clearly mark the turning lanes?

Answer: (Col O'Brien)
  • This is an excellent question, as the current paint marks are somewhat confusing and are a safety hazard. Both ends of 5th Street are schedule to be painted by the end of this month.
Question: If we lose all of our flight hours and people cannot fly, how long can they go without flying before they lose gate months and flight pay?

Answer: (Lt. Col. Genelin)
  • Remember that every individual aviator and their situation is different and may be affected by this situation differently, though a general solution is as follows.
  • If all flying hours are cut and members are unable to fly, each aircrew member who is affected by the hours being cut will be assigned a particular status code that identifies them in a category called K status; K status is defined as the member's inability to fly due to lack of resources (i.e. lack of flying hours, or aircraft).
  • Even though each member will be affected differently due to where they are at in their aviation career, it does not mean that their flight pay will be stopped; Most individuals will retain their flight pay
  • Gate months will not accrue, but can be reinstated via waiver if required to meet the flyer's next gate; This status is a temporary status and ACC has directed assignment of this code upon unit stand-down (flying hours being cut); If an aircrew member wishes to find out more about this K status code and how it affects them individually, they may call the HARM office at DSN: 461-3400 or Comm: 325-696-3400
Question: Can we look into the possibility of getting a restroom facility near the park at Montana?

Answer: (Col. O'Brien)
  • Our civil engineer team took a look at this, and a single porta-potty will cost $65 per month/$780 per year, based on weekly servicing; Although that doesn't seem like much, the number could quickly grow, based on additional requests
  • With around 15 park/playground areas in Military Family Housing, the annual cost would be just under $12K to have a porta-potty at every park; Thank you for your question, but based on the current constrained fiscal environment, placing restroom facilities or port-potties near the children's parks is not financially feasible at this time
Question: Can the north and south ends of 5th Street be repainted to clearly mark the turning lanes?

Answer: (Col. O'Brien)
  • This is an excellent question, as the current paint marks are somewhat confusing and are a safety hazard; Both ends of 5th Street are schedule to be painted by the end of June