Torres tackles tough times

  • Published
  • By Col. JJ Torres
  • 15th Airlift Wing Commander
Many of you are probably noticing some subtle (and some not so subtle) changes going on at Hickam AFB. The grass doesn't seem to be getting cut as much as it used to, some services have been cut back a bit, some services previously free now carry a small fee. And some of these changes are probably making many of us a little uncomfortable. 

So what has changed? The fact is, our reality has changed. The fiscal environment in which we operate has been constricted to the point that we now are making tough choices on what to keep doing, what to scale back and what to eliminate entirely.
So, "straight up," I am going to tell you what has become our new reality and what we can and are doing about it. 

First, a little philosophy on our approach to managing with fewer dollars: We are diligently working to not compromise our Quality of Life programs. Your base leadership's going-in strategy is "cutting back" certain functions and programs versus "cutting out" entirely. 

OK, reality #1: We began this fiscal year with an approximate 27-percent budget reduction from last year. These cuts have directly impacted the following programs:
1. As of March 1, the base grounds maintenance contract was reduced to include mowing and edging of all areas only once every two weeks. Any cuttings outside this schedule are on a "pay-per-job" basis. Tree trimming is limited to emergencies only.
2. Beginning this past Monday, base custodial service for almost all facilities was reduced to bathrooms only, with the exception of the Child Development Center, the Fitness Center and the Medical Clinic. These facilities will still receive full custodial service. All other units are now responsible for the cleaning of their respective facilities.
3. Youth programs have received reduced funding; therefore, the fee structure has been increased to compensate. 

4. The hours for pool #1 have been reduced and a fee structure has been implemented for both pools #1 and #2. 

5. The Lifeguard contract at Hickam Beach has been reduced to weekends only. 

6. Some aerobics classes now carry a small fee per class to pay for instructors. 

7. Lodging rates have been increased 10 percent. This new fee structure also includes lodging at Bellows AFS. 

8. Units will now be required to budget, negotiate and purchase their own cell phone contracts. This service was previously provided as a consolidated program under the 15th Communications Squadron. 

9. Due to an overall increase in the cost of energy across all PACAF bases, each base has been levied the requirement to pick up 5 percent of the budgeted overage. This equates to approximately $800,000 at Hickam. To cover this bill, we are asking all Hickam community members to implement energy-saving measures into their daily business, such as turning off computer monitors when not in use, turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and using the new energy-efficient light bulbs in all fixtures in homes and offices. 

Reality #2: All is not "doom and gloom" by any stretch of the imagination. Regardless of budget challenges, there are a great many things happening at your base: 

1. Hickam CDC Child Development Center (CDC) & School Age Program expansion groundbreaking began occurred Monday of this week. Within one year, our CDC & School Age Program capacity is scheduled to increase by 176 slots. 

2. The Hickam Harbor and beach is are open daily and free to all authorized individuals. 

3. In my opinion, we have the best fitness center on the island, including the most professional, trained and capable staff. 

4. We are in the middle of Phase I of our housing privatization project, which is now going very well. I have received very positive feedback from families who have moved into the new homes about the quality of the house, and the great and many services provide by our newest Hickam partner, Hickam Community Housing. 

5. The new AAFES Shoppette mini mall will be opening in about two months. 

6. We are improving the look of the base with the makeover of Atterbury Circle as part of an Air Force heritage project. 

7. Our Services squadron continues to offer programs for every age bracket. 

8. Have you checked out the great things happening at your Clubs? 

Reality #3: Collectively, while we need to embrace our new realities, we also need to face our fears to avoid being paralyzed by them. This will required a concerted effort on the part of all Hickam AFB members. We will have to think differently - to "think without boundaries." We will have to approach the way we do business differently and embrace the notion that necessity is the mother of invention. We will have to maintain a positive outlook. It all comes down to attitude - have you checked yours lately? 

The responsibility for taking care of this base, its resources, and the men and women who live, work and play here is a responsibility borne on the part of all Team Hickam community members. We have a vital mission to perform for our nation, and that mission is about protecting people. In a way you could say our "business" is more focused on the "bottom life" as opposed to the "bottom line." 

So, even though we may be going through tough times, I feel it's important for each of us to remember that Hickam is our home - and our home is only as good as we make it. Each of us must do our part to enhance the appearance of our home in order to present the positive, professional, disciplined image we've grown to expect and strive to project ... to our community, to our nation, to the rest of the world. 

Achieving this goal will be no different than the concerted effort we saw from Team Hickam members last week when a 3-year old girl went missing for a few hours. When our Security Forces put the call out for volunteers to form search parties, the Hickam community came out en masse. Well over two hundred people from multiple base agencies showed up to search the neighborhoods. And this story had a happy ending, as the little girl was found safe and sound. In my mind, that's what it is all about.
So the grass may grow a little longer and we may find ourselves having to shoulder a few unaccustomed burdens. Indeed, our new fiscal reality may make us feel uncomfortable. But, then, we have seen these kinds of things before in our history, and we as an Air Force, as a nation and as Americans have always persevered through the tough times. 

How and why, you ask? Because we are proud, we are resilient ... we are Air Force!