American Legion Auxiliary President Janet Jefford and American Legion Department of France National Executive Committeeman John Miller meet with Command Chief Master Sgt. James E. Davis at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. (Photo by John Raughter)

Air Force to Legion: We are stretched

As a delegation of Legionnaires, including the National President of The American Legion Auxiliary, toured Ramstein Air Base today, one concern was mentioned by Air Force leaders repeatedly: Sequestration is jeopardizing readiness.

“It is frustrating to see the best military judgment be ignored, but I am convinced that sequestration will not go away – even though it is the worst law that I can remember,” Lt. Gen. Noel “Tom” Jones told President Janet Jefford and American Legion Department of France National Executive Committeeman John Miller in a meeting this morning.

Jones, who is the vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe -Air Forces Africa, said that Europe is completely different than when he served during a previous tour here in the 1980s. “By every measure our op tempo has increased, but we are 75 percent smaller than what we were a couple of decades ago,” Jones said. “This is an important message, because if you are not here, you don’t appreciate the magnitude of the cuts that we have had in Europe. Thanks to Mr. Putin and Russia, people are now starting to pay attention.”

National Commander Michael Helm was scheduled to attend the meeting but returned to the United States to attend his mother’ s funeral. He is expected to return to Europe to participate in ceremonies in Normandy to commemorate D-Day on June 6.

Brigadier Gen. Patrick Mordente, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, mirrored many of Jones’ concerns. “When I first came to the airlift, the Berlin Wall came down,” Mordente said. “We kept hearing about the ‘peace dividend’, yet since 1990 airlift requirements have quadrupled. We are not only very close to Putin’s Russia, but ISIS and Boko Haram are also threats in our area. There are so many possibilities about the future that you cannot afford to cut Europe anymore.”

“We’ve had to let a lot of good people go,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. James E. Davis. “It’s hard to look at a good airman, who has done nothing wrong, and say, ‘I’m sorry but your services are no longer needed.’ It used to be an option to stay for 20 years, but that day has long passed.”

Davis added that despite the cuts, the Air Force is still able to perform admirably. “Our men and women are outstanding,” he said. “They show no lack of effort. We just do the same things with a whole lot less manpower.”