Nellis Chiefs champion travel changes; lead DoD unaccompanied move DLA approval

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  • By Airman 1st Class Josey Blades

The initiative began at Nellis Air Force Base, where Airmen have been moving out of the dorms at a rate much quicker than the Air Force average. Instead of the usual 36 months in the dorms, Nellis Airmen move out in approximately 12 months.

Both command chiefs for the 57th Wing and 99th Air Base Wing wanted to be in line with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s letter to the force, which stated, “Leaders owe Airmen and their families the quality of service and quality of life where all can reach their full potential.”

The process began when Chief Master Sergeant Raul Villarreal, Jr., Command Chief Master Sergeant of the 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, asked an Airman if he could shadow them moving from the dorms to single family housing, start to finish.

“I asked her, her supervisor, and her First Sergeant if I could come over and look at her house,” said Villarreal. “She had a nice nightstand, a nice bed, closet in order, a TV, but you walk around to the other part of the house, and she had nothing.”

Villarreal mentioned it started getting us to think ‘what do these Airmen have when they move out?’ He said, “It’s literally nothing and we don’t give them anything, we don’t help with that. That started generating some ideas on what we could do to help these airmen offset some of these costs associated with living.”

The chiefs surveyed about 260 Airmen that moved out over the past year. The expenses that came with moving ranged anywhere from $200 to about $2,000. It showed Airmen were either paying these costs out of pocket or putting it on their credit cards. This data was used to start exploring ways to offset the cost of moving. Chief Master Sergeant Alex Morgan, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the 99th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, mentioned they realized there was no mechanism to help the Airmen.

“And that’s really how it started, with a legislative proposal,” said Villarreal. “We actually tag teamed an Air Force audit agency tasker just to continue to highlight our challenges on the installation.”

To finalize this project, Nellis leadership called on the Las Vegas community and Nevada state representatives and senators to do more for Airmen.

“I think that was a key component because they had the ability to put it in their teammate’s hands, get it on The Hill, and really engage at that levels,” said Morgan. “We believed we could get after this problem if we utilized the right resources and brought it to the forefront.”

With recent visits and support from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), congressional delegates, and the Senate Armed Services Committee, this effort was a success.

“I think it’s a huge win because this doesn’t just impact Nellis,” said Villarreal. “It impacts all the Air Force and the entire DoD for any unaccompanied military member. All military members will be awarded this opportunity. And look, it’s not going to fix their problem holistically, but it’ll help offset some of the challenges that they have moving off base.”  

On the sunset of their careers, Morgan and Villarreal wanted to retire with one big win for all service members across the branches.

“Being able to help someone gives me the biggest satisfaction and it’ll continue to give me the biggest satisfaction even as I retire,” said Morgan.

Morgan also added, “Ultimately taking care of people and being able to affect not only not just the Air Force but all our services really is able to help me go out with a smile.”

“As we continue to move on to our next chapter, closure is a thing but I think the next step for us is, and we’ve been talking about this, is we want to see it work,” stated Villarreal. “We want to find the first Airman that it works for and just have a moment with them.”

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