Sequestration hits AFAD parade

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
The annual Air Force Appreciation Day parade in Mountain Home remains the state's largest. However, mandatory cuts in defense spending under sequestration will limit Mountain Home Air Force Base's participation in this year's event.

The effects of the Congressional sequester actions will have a significant impact on Air Force Appreciation Day, reducing the parade's size, eliminating some of the popular military entries and canceling the flyover by military jets.

Parade chairman Sue Gross estimates the length of the parade could be cut by at least a quarter of its length without enties such as the CES equipment, the base fire trucks and the mobile radars of the 726th Air Control Squadron.

Those entries will all be affected by Air Force guidelines issued in the wake of sequester, a set of federal budget cuts automatically triggered when Congress failed to reach agreement on deficit reduction and a plan to balance the budget.

The Air Force leadership, which already had to cancel training for more than a month earlier this year due to budgetary constraints, has issued a directive that essentially says not government assets can be used for ceremonial or public functions.

According to a statement from the Air Force, explaining that directive:

"The DoD Comptroller intent is that there is 'no cost to the Department of Defense' for any events we participate in. Exceptions are only being made for limited travel to events (for example, a bus carrying airmen). Waivers to this policy have been extremely rare and only for events of national significance. No waivers have been granted by DoD for parade participation.

"While the base is able to provide static displays at your parade, due to the lifecycle management costs of operating this equipment, vehicles are prohibited by the Department of the Defense from participating in the parade itself.

"Due to sequestration, the Air Force has had to withdraw support to more than 800 events reaching 48 million people! Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission and communicating and connecting with the public is more important today than ever before. The Air Force will continue to seek new ways to remain engaged with the American public during sequestration.

"We thank you tremendously for the support the Mountain Home community shows our airmen and their families."

Nevertheless, the base leadership is working to find ways to participate, within the boundaries laid down by their bosses at Air Combat Command headquarters in Langley, Va., and the Pentagon.

"AFAD is a valuable event and we will support it to the best of our ability given our limited resources," said Col. Chris Short, commander of the 366th Fighter Wing. "Other than those activities we're prohibited from doing, the expectation is base personnel will participate as they have in the past. Commanders will shuck corn Friday night and volunteer to serve at the barbecue following the parade. Base personnel will run in the 5K (fun run Friday night) and will participate in the parade. Community leaders are also invited to attend the wing retreat ceremony Sept. 5 on base."

Short said the base's actions "are being directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force during this time of constrained budgets and civilian furloughs. The protection of funding for wartime operations, wounded warrior programs and family programs remains the priority. Military support to outreach activities, such as Air Force Appreciation Day, in the local area is permitted. However, active use of the equipment -- to include, driving a vehicle in a local parade -- is prohibited due to the hourly cost of operating that vehicle."

At the same time, the wing commander added, "AFAD is a valuable event and we will support it to the best of our ability given our limited resources.

"This is another painful effect of sequestration," he said. "Our relationship with the community is outstanding and we are disappointed that we cannot fully support a great event like AFAD.

"We feel the impact of these budget constraints everyday -- our civilian workforce is still suffering from furloughs, we are working to regain our combat capability following the stand down of the 391st Fighter Squadron, and restrictions on temporary duties and purchases continue to affect our mission readiness. Every dollar is critical. We have to meet operational requirements and ensure our Gunfighters are combat ready."

Although they can't bring their vehicles and a lot of their equipment, base personnel are allowed to march in the parade or ride on floats. Members of the community have offered to make available half a dozen flatbed trucks if base units want to use them.

Base personnel, Gross said, "are trying to find ways to participate. They're just going to have to go the civilian way. The base people are being innovative, as they are trained to do."

In addition, some "squadron vehicles," such as the tiger-striped Cadillac of the 391st "Bold Tigers" Fighter Squadron, which were purchased from private fundraisers, are not technically military vehicles and are expected to participate.

The 428th Fighter Squadron "Buccaneers" of the Republic of Singapore air force training unit at the base is unaffected by sequestration and their popular entry is expected to be in the parade.

Mayor Tom Rist noted that "it's disappointing that the Air Force will not be able to participate as they have for the previous 52 years" in the AFAD parade. And, he pointed out, lacking any action by Congress, sequestration will continue into the next fiscal year.

In fact, the Budget Reconciliation Act that created the automatic 10 percent cuts in military spending (on top of the planned cuts due to winding down the war in Afghanistan), will be in place for ten years unless Congress takes specific steps to end it.

Gross noted that "the parade is going to be shorter" than it has been in recent years, "but I think we're still going to be the best parade in Idaho."

The base honor guard will still lead the parade, followed closely behind by the National Guard's 25th Army Band. Based at Gowen Field, it will be a training weekend for the unit.

Included in the military vehicles that will be missing from the parade will be the flyover of A-10s from the Idaho National Guard, which traditionally serve as the start of the event.

This year, the flyover is expected to be provided by the Warhawk Air Museum, which will use some of its WWII P-40 aircraft to conduct the flyover. Included in that flight will be a TP-40 two-seat trainer version of the plane.

To pay for the flyover, the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce is selling chances to ride in one of the planes. For each $10 donation to the flyover fund, a person will receive one chance in a drawing to be held the Friday before AFAD. The winner will be notified by phone and will have to make their own way to the Warhawk museum in Nampa Saturday morning to make the flight. Only 150 drawing entry chances will be sold. Contact the Chamber of Commerce at 587-4334 for more information, or stop by the office at 205 N. 3rd East St.

Despite the involuntary reduction in participation from the military units being honored by Air Force Appreciation Day, most of the day will go on as normal.

After the early-morning VIP breakfast, the parade will start at 10:30 a.m. and wind its way past a typical crowd of 7,000 people along the route through the central core of the city to Carl Miller Park, where the Chamber of Commerce will provide a free barbecue. Well over 100 vendors are expected to also have booths set up in the park that afternoon.

Throughout the afternoon raffle drawings will be held by the Chamber for a number of prizes, including: a $1,500 shopping spree at DeMeyer Furniture; a $1,500 shopping spree at Ageless Beauty Medical Spa & Weight Loss Center; a natural gas barbecue grill from Intermountain Gas; a set of luggage from Brenda's Travel Service; a 32" LCD TV courtesy of Home Federal Bank; two $250 cash prizes, and a set of Farberware Cookware from Bealls.

Raffle tickets, $1 each for six for $5, are available now at Paul's Market, Home Federal Bank, Idaho independent Bank, Pioneer Federal Credit Union, LaMode Cleaners and the Chamber office.

Parade entry forms also are available in each issue of the Mountain Home News, at the Chamber, city hall and online at

The parade entry deadline is 5 p.m. on Aug. 23. The theme this year is "Saluting Our Military -- Our Heroes; Our Hope."

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