81st FSS faces tough choices on base amenities

  • Published
  • By Maj. John Ponton
  • 81st Force Support Squadron commander
We can expect significant changes in the world of force support during these times of budget cuts and personnel downsizing. While we have been very successful in preserving our activities and level of service, the reality of operating in the current austere environment is forcing some tough decisions, as predicted.

As we move forward, the 81st Force Support Squadron will do its best to keep the Keesler population as informed as possible, and also explain why certain decisions are being made. One such example is the addition of a child and parent fitness area in the Blake Fitness Center.

The movement of the child-parent fitness area was a response to customer critiques and feedback from the 2011 Caring for People survey. While we appreciate that some customers prefer to leave the Blake Fitness Center as is, the move allows a significant percentage of the Keesler population to have better access to a fitness area otherwise unavailable to them, specifically during weekends, holidays, early mornings and evenings.

The addition will also improve the equipment, size and appearance of the area formerly located at the Dragon Fitness Center. Lastly, the move will increases the value and flexibility of the Blake Fitness Center.

Another change you will see involves the auto and wood hobby shops. We have lost our appropriated funded positions in each of these facilities, presenting us with a significant challenge regarding future operations. The auto hobby shop will reduce hours to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Although we began the process more than a month ago, hiring someone as a part-time manager has been challenging. Our goal is to keep the facility open, albeit with reduced hours and some changes to services available. We anticipate periods of closure short durations as we continue the hiring process.

A greater challenge involves the wood hobby shop. The current number of customers is not enough to support operating the facility. When we lose our appropriated fund personnel, we'll make every effort to make the facility available in some manner. However, we will operate in a very limited capacity.

As always, we appreciate your support, and indeed there is much progress to report. Our golf and bowling programs are increasingly strong. Additionally, we continue to invest in our activities to increase their value to you, our valued customers. Air Education and Training Command has taken notice of the great things we are doing here at Keesler and has invested more than $700,000 in your services activities.

Very soon you will see an expanded Fam Camp, a repaved and extended I-81 running path, a paintball program, a Cross Fit workout area, a remodeled bowling center, nature parks at the marina and CDC, as well as many improvements to the golf course and its snack bar.

As always, your FSS team is working hard to bring you the best possible level of service we can provide. In spite of increasing challenges, our mission remains unchanged; to be the best force support squadron in the Air Force.