What Will Shaw, McEntire Stand Down Mean for Pilots?

7:36 PM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
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Sumter, SC (WLTX) - Some F-16 pilots at Shaw Air Force Base and McEntire Joint Guard Base won't be flying soon, a result of forced federal budget cuts.

The Air Force must fly 45,000 fewer training hours by October to accommodate the nearly $591 million in cuts that are part of the sequestration measures agreed to by the President and Congress.

The Air Force Times reported Tuesday that the 77th Fighter Squadron at Shaw and active duty pilots stationed at McEntire will have to stand down. The move does not affect National Guard pilots.

In short, a stand down means the officers won't be able to fly combat missions or train in their aircraft. Some pilots will begin the stand down on April 9th, while others will comply with the order when they return from combat.

Retired Major General Dutch Holland says the stand down doesn't mean a loss of jobs for Midlands airmen, just a change in what a day at the office looks like.

"They'll get up in the morning and put their uniform on and go to work, it's just that what they do at work may be a little bit different," Holland said. "They may go into the library and study, they may go to the simulator and fly that way, instead of briefing, walking out to the airplane, and taking off and landing."

Holland is the executive coordinator of the South Carolina Military Base Task Force and once served at Shaw. He says even with these orders, the fighter wing can still do a lot to maintain combat readiness.

"It's a challenge for the leadership to make sure they're looking individuals in the eye and explaining to them why things are a little bit different," he said.

For now, he doesn't see an effect beyond the gates of the military installations.

"I don't see that there will be much of an impact in the local community from an economic standpoint."

Holland says the stand down orders not only impact the pilots, but support and maintenance staff that work with the 77th Fighter Squadron.

"I don't think this came as a huge surprise. We didn't get a lot of warning the announcement was going to come out, but I think we all understood that the potential was there."

The length of time the pilots are ground could affect their readiness. The Air Force says if a pilot doesn't fly for several months, they'd need between two to three months of training to get them combat-ready again.

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