Ponying Up

The Air Force announced yesterday that it is authorizing assignment incentive pay for airmen assigned to and performing duty at Creech AFB, Nev., effective immediately. Airmen who meet the eligibility criteria will receive $300 AIP per month for the first 36 months assigned to a Creech unit, and $750 per month for service beyond three years. Creech is home of the 432nd Wing, USAF’s sole unmanned aerial vehicle wing, which operates MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers. These UAVs have been performing ultra-heavy duty around-the-clock in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no let-up in sight. Trying to meet the insatiable demand from ground commanders for the full-motion, real-time video that the Predators and Reapers provide has placed an enormous stress on the airmen who control the UAVs daily from Creech via satellite communications. So stressful has been the operations tempo on these airmen that they remain some of the most fatigued and taxed crews in the service, according to a March 2008 report by investigators at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey Calif. The Air Force said yesterday the Office of the Secretary of Defense asked the service to look at incentive options to help increase numbers at Creech, which also currently lacks many quality-of-life features compared to other bases, including nearby housing options. “The plan is to attract and retain airmen for high operations tempo assignments at this developing location in a challenging environment,” the service said. (Includes Randolph report by MSgt. Kat Bailey)