12/18/12 — Undersecretary makes stop at Air Force base

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Undersecretary makes stop at Air Force base

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 18, 2012 1:46 PM

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Photo courtesy of 4th Fighter Wing Airman 1st Class Aubrey White

Mayor Al King, left, acting Undersecretary of the Air Force Dr. Jamie Morin, center, and 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Jeannie Leavitt, right, speak after a ceremony held Monday on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

He came to Wayne County to honor the 4th Fighter Wing -- to praise its leadership and a particular member who distinguished himself by ensuring small businesses were hired to complete millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

But acting Undersecretary of the Air Force Dr. Jamie Morin also took some time Monday to assure the men and women stationed at the Goldsboro installation that he and other officials in Washington were working hard to alleviate the uncertainty that has accompanied those budget discussions that have dominated the news for the past several weeks.

"The Washington environment can be a distraction. The uncertainty makes it hard ... but we are doing everything in our power ... to provide our combat forces with the stability that we know you crave," he said. "We're going to keep pressing on that. So I ask for your patience and your support as we go through this ... and I will tell you that your Air Force leadership is speaking very clearly and directly to the national leadership in Congress and elsewhere to ensure they understand the stakes."

Morin's comments on the economy were consistent with the purpose of his trip -- to laud the 4th and Kyle Donah, its director of business operations, for shattering Air Force goals associated with hiring small businesses to complete multi-million-dollar projects on base.

"The heart and soul of our success depends on being adaptive," he said. "And when it comes time for quick response, for innovation, America's small businesses are our competitive advantage."

He cited the recent renovation of the base runway -- an $18 million undertaking that was completed ahead of schedule and under budget -- as an example of a project that pumped money into the communities that surround Seymour Johnson.

"This stuff doesn't happen by accident," Morin said. "It happens with airmen, civilian and military, working together to find a creative way to get the job done."

And he noted that the base did better than 96 percent of its contracting with small businesses in the last year.

"That blows away the standards," Morin said. "It blows away the goals."

4th Commander Col. Jeannie Leavitt, after accepting the wing's award, also talked about the runway project.

"It's a very cool story -- a pretty significant infrastructure improvement," she said.

But it is one that could not have been completed without the quick thinking and versatility often associated with the small businesses they contracted the project out to.

When the center section of the runway was being repaved, it required the base to shut it down -- to call off flying by the 4th's two fighter squadrons and F-15E training units.

But thanks to the creativity of those doing the work, they were able to ensure the closures came in short bursts -- allowing the base's critical mission to continue without significant interruption.

"Because this was awarded to small businesses and run by our own civil engineers ... we did things pretty creatively."

Morin characterized their effort as a "truly extraordinary accomplishment," one more than worthy of a personal visit from him and his staff.

"It is a real pleasure to be here today," he said. "To see the incredible work that goes on here."