More than 700 Airmen here gathered for a visit from the Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, Aug. 14.
It was Fanning's first visit to the base where Airmen were given an opportunity to share their mission with the secretary and hear his thoughts on issues facing the force.
"With the way the budget is now and where the adversary is and where technology is, the Air Force is more critical now than it has ever been," Fanning said. "Everything I learned about the Air Force has just underscored to me what an amazing service this is, and what an amazing time in history, of this service, it is -- the Air Force does more things in more places than people realize."
While the secretary shared his enthusiasm for what the Air Force brings to the fight, he also addressed the challenges currently facing today's Airmen.
"It is time to start making the hard decisions that will create a smaller military, one that will get to a point of stability in the near future -- and we can get everyone focused on the mission again," Fanning said.
Commending the perseverance of Airmen, the secretary emphasized the importance of the nuclear deterrence mission.
"When we went through the strategic review, one of the things we were promised out of it was guidance," Fanning said. "One of the very clear priorities in that guidance from the secretary of defense is that we have to support the nuclear triad and the nuclear deterrence mission. So what you guys do today, and what you have been doing for years, is critically important to us and will be into the future."
During the all call, Airmen shared their concerns with the secretary about issues ranging from the future of benefits, like tuition assistance, to future reductions in force based on potential streamlining of combatant commands.
Fanning willingly addressed these concerns, and also tackled difficult issues like the growing concerns over sexual assault in the military. The secretary said not everyone is responsible for the sexual assault problem, but everyone can be part of the solution.
"It is important that we all take responsibility," Fanning said. "Leaders have to hold people accountable, and Airmen need to look out for each other. (Sexual assault) shouldn't be happening in this institution."
After listening to the concerns of the Airmen, Fanning praised them for their focus and dedication to the mission.
"I am impressed with your perseverance despite all the things that are happening around you," Fanning said. "It is inspiring to me. Thank you for continuing to focus on the mission."