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Secretary James visits 403rd Wing

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James met with civic leaders, toured facilities and spoke to the Airmen and senior leaders of the 403rd Wing alongside Mississippi's 4th district U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker during a visit to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, May 29 and 30.

During the secretary's time with the 403rd Wing, James also attended briefings and toured the 2nd Air Force and 81st Training Wing.

"We are thrilled to host the secretary of the Air Force and chief of the Air Force Reserve," said Col. Frank Amodeo, the 403rd Wing commander. "In these challenging times with force structure changes and manning reductions, visits by our senior leaders speak volumes about how much they truly care about all of our Airmen and families.

The 403rd Wing is the only Air Force Reserve Wing in Mississippi and flies the unique mission of aerial reconnaissance into hurricanes while also conducting tactical airdrop missions in support of contingencies operations overseas.

During her tour of the 403rd Wing, James viewed the 403rd Maintenance Propulsion Shop, 41st Aerial Port Squadron and aircraft. The day concluded with an "all call" with Keesler Airmen where James spoke about her three key priorities as SecAF, which included discussing the future of the Air Force during a fiscally constrained time.

"My top priorities are taking care of our people, balancing what we have today for tomorrow's readiness and making every dollar count," James said. 

She also answered questions during the "all call" about commissary benefits and international relations with Russia regarding the space program and effects of upcoming force reductions to morale.

While visiting the 403rd Wing's assets, James toured both models of the C-130J fleet on Keesler. The WC-130J Hurricane Hunter model was additionally equipped with aeromedical evacuation, or AE, litters and critical care air transport team equipment. This highlights a "make every dollar count initiative," where AE accomplishes training simultaneously with weather reconnaissance aircrews.

During her visit to one of the Hurricane Hunter aircraft, Maj. Sean Cross, a hurricane hunter pilot, explained the weather reconnaissance mission. When asked of James about the hazards of flying into the eye of hurricanes Cross responded, "Flying is inherently dangerous. We have highly experienced crews and great training. Those things mitigate the risks and keep us safe."

Also during the day, James toured the 41st Aerial Port Squadron and Senior Master Sgt. James Childs, an Air Reserve technician with the 41st APS, explained the sophistication behind "throwing" equipment and cargo out the back of a C-130J.

According to 1st Lt. Linda McCullough, the executive officer for the 403rd Maintenance Group, James' visit was meaningful.

"It was nice for us to showcase our talents and abilities and the level of passion and knowledge that people have in their jobs here," she said. "The visit was motivating and it showed us that we are important to our senior leadership.
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