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Zettler: People first in reconstituting force

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2003) -- As the dust of Operation Iraqi Freedom settles, the Air Force installations and logistics community is turning its attention to the challenge that lies ahead: readying the service for the next big contingency.

Replenishing the materiel and equipment reserved for wartime use, rebuilding the munitions stockpile and repairing equipment are key priorities, said Lt. Gen. Michael E. Zettler, deputy chief of staff for installations and logistics at the Pentagon. However, first and foremost Air Force officials are taking care of their people.

"The IL team deployed upward of 30,000 of them,” Zettler said. “We have to allow all of them to get home and to recuperate.”

Many of those deployed had to delay on-the-job training and the fulfillment of other military education requirements, Zettler said. Part of reconstitution involves getting them back on track.

Then there is the matter of re-establishing the air and space expeditionary force schedule so people have some sort of predictability in their lives, he added.

"Air Force (leaders are) working very hard to have a drawdown plan for the people who are deployed and to return us to AEF capability status,” he said.

Replenishing war-reserve materiel is also key, Zettler said. That includes everything from firetrucks and general-purpose vehicles to tents and shower facilities.

"We deployed the equipment out of storage," Zettler said. "Now we’re going to reconstitute it. We are going to put it back into a storage condition so it is ready for another conflict."

Some equipment can be repaired, cleaned and placed back into storage, Zettler said. Other items must be replaced with new items.

That includes munitions, he said, which are critical to preparing the Air Force for another conflict. During OIF, the Air Force dropped nearly 4,700 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, nearly 5,000 guided bombs and about 1,000 wing-corrected munitions dispensers.

Part of reconstitution is the replacement of the individual parts used to assemble those munitions. Individual parts are manufactured by civilian contractors and include such elements as nose cones, bomb bodies, fuses, tail fins and guidance kits.

"We will look at what we dropped and what it has done to our overall inventory, and then we will program money to go purchase replacement weapons to meet future requirements," Zettler said.

Finally, reconstitution means returning Air Force equipment to prewar standards, Zettler said. That includes everything from aircraft to communications equipment.

"Our airplanes have performed extraordinarily well, and our people have taken great care of them," Zettler said. "But as they return to their home stations, we need to make sure we've addressed all the issues of corrosion and collection of sand in some of those systems."

The dust and sand encountered in Southwest Asia is not just a problem for aircraft maintainers, Zettler said.

"Sand gets in everything," he said. "The maintenance people for all the different equipment have to make an assessment of what type of cleaning their equipment needs. With aircraft, they tend to it on a daily basis.

“For communications equipment, you go in and do maintenance by trying to remove dust and sand with pressurized air. Some you will never get out, but over time it works itself out," he said.

The people and equipment of IL are getting the force ready for the next contingency, Zettler said.

“In the end game, our equipment performed well because our professional force provided such great maintenance over the long haul,” he said. “Now, our comm, civil engineers, maintenance, supply, trans and services folks will work with the log planners to rebuild the total force.”