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Mountain Home newspaper going virtual

MOUNTAIN HOME AFB, Idaho (ACCNS) -- An era will come to an end Dec. 22 when the Mountain Home Air Force Base newspaper, The Gunfighter, hits the streets for the last time. 

The public affairs staff will set a benchmark in the Air Force and become one of the first bases to transition from a traditional newspaper to a web-based product. The transition decision is primarily in response to current personnel reductions and the wing's increased deployment operations tempo. 

The Air Force made the decision to draw down nearly 15 percent of its manpower to free up funds for new fighters, bombers, tankers and other aircraft and equipment. 

These cuts forces many Air Force organizations to adopt a new way of looking at how business is done. Called Air Force Smart Operations 21 or AFSO-21 for short, all organizations are now determining how to best use their remaining personnel and assets in a sustainable manner that doesn't wear out the force while still accomplishing an increasingly demanding mission. 

"In the case of the public affairs office, we scaled down from an eight to a five-person office since July," said Capt. Damien Pickart, 366th FW public affairs chief. "Come January, three of our remaining five members will deploy for four to six months, leaving the office with only two people. While the show must go on for the public affairs office, it is clear we must adopt a new way of continuing the mission of keeping our Gunfighter readers informed. We believe Web-based technology is the answer." 

In line with AFSO-21 and leadership's instruction to leverage off new technologies, the information normally found in the base paper will soon be available on the base's public and internal Web sites. Articles, news clips and Air Force news will appear as links on the wing's home page. 

While the absence of a traditional newspaper may appear initially as an inconvenience to some, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, the captain said. 

The public affairs office can continue to get critical information out to what will now be a much wider audience. Deployed personnel, retirees who live a considerable distance from base and people on leave outside the local area will all have access to base information since most community libraries and a majority of American households and businesses have Internet access. 

"Not only will the news be accessible to a wider audience than before, it will be timelier," said Captain Pickart. "Currently, the news cycle is seven to 10 days. If something happens on a Wednesday, it often misses the production deadline and can't run until the following Friday's paper, nearly 10 days later. Now, something that happens on a Friday morning can be published on our Web site as quick as we can draft the story and clear it through leadership." 

The Mountain Home News, who currently prints The Gunfighter, will continue to provide a newspaper to the base to keep the base and community aware of news going on at each end of the Airbase Road. While this paper will belong solely to the Mountain Home News, it will include base information pulled from the public website. 

Col. Tony Rock, the 366th FW commander, commented at a recent Military Affairs Committee luncheon that cuts to the Air Force will force Gunfighters to figure out how to capitalize on remaining assets and personnel as the drawdown marches on. 

"Our Air Force is in the dynamic process of transforming itself while simultaneously fighting a war," said Colonel Rock. "This transformation requires us to question how we do business and sometimes opt for new and innovative ways to accomplish the mission rather than retaining legacy, and often unsustainable, processes."