Hill Air Force Base structure makes historic shift
Hill Air Force Base • It may take a year to know whether the restructuring at Hill Air Force Base accomplished in a series of ceremonies Thursday is good for the base, Rep. Rob Bishop said.
"That's still up in the air," the 1st District Congressman said.
On paper, the new management structure is extraordinarily complex, he said.
"Rube Goldberg couldn't have done a better job on paper," said Bishop, the only member of Utah's congressional delegation to attend the ceremonies that Air Force officials called "historic." Lt. Gov. Greg Bell represented the governor's office.
Those in the chain of command for the newly named Ogden Air Logistics Complex it previously was a center, a higher level organization are well aware of the challenges, the congressman said.
Besides giving the center a new name and commander Brig. Gen. H. Brent Baker on Thursday, the top brass in the Air Force Materiel Command deactivated the 309th Maintenance Wing.
Its 8,000 employees will now work for the Air Force Sustainment Center in Oklahoma, although they will remain at Hill doing the same work maintaining aircraft and weapons systems. Essentially, the complex is the same as ever, except with no headquarters staff.
The congressional delegation and Gov. Gary Herbert were livid last fall when the reorganization was first announced, claiming they were not consulted.
No one was fired to accomplish the changes, although some are moving to Oklahoma, such as the former 309th commander, Col. Allan Day. Some moved to other jobs on base, retired or took separation incentives as HAFB trimmed 159 jobs from its workforce.
The changes are part of an effort by Air Force Materiel Command, the service's biggest employer of civilians, to become more efficient. The changes are expected to save $109 million a year.
Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, the commander of Air Force Materiel Command and first female general in the Air Force, said Thursday the reorganization "will allow us to more effectively and efficiently execute this critical mission that we do on behalf of warfighters for this nation."
The departing commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Maj. Gen. Andrew Busch, and others sought to allay fears among employees that the change will mean less autonomy for the HAFB workforce, and more vulnerability in future budget cuts.
"I know there are a lot of unsettling aspects," Busch told the 400 employees, civic leaders and elected officials attending the ceremonies.
But he argued there are two key advantages, including that the mission sustaining aircraft and weapons systems will now have a three-star general who has a place at the table with other decision-makers.
That three-star general, Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, is the new commander of the new Air Force Sustainment Center, which will be headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
"I'm not so naÃ¯ve to think this will be an easy transition," Litchfield told employees. But, he said, the new complex "will thrive, will have a bright future and will be an integral part of the Air Force Sustainment Center."
The new commander, Baker, said he feels like "the luckiest person on earth" to take command his seventh in the Air Force of the Ogden complex.
Baker has already been selected to receive a second star, a promotion to major general, and many have speculated he won't be at Hill for long because the job calls for a one-star general.
Telling employees he is a "type A, fast-paced, get-it-done type of leader" who likes to have fun, Baker addressed worries that he'll soon be gone.
"I look forward to working with you over the next many, many years I'll be stationed here at Hill," he said, prompting laughter among employees.
Baker said later he expects to get his second star in the fall.
"Even though I'm a two-star in a one-star position, it's â¦ totally up to the Air Force what they want to do with me next. They could leave me here for a couple years," said Baker. "I'm just happy to be part of this team. That wouldn't bother me one ounce."
Baker said he will have the autonomy from Litchfield to run the Ogden complex day-to-day. "He's going to let me operate my organization."