Lt. Gen. Gary North talks to Airmen of the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing during the wing's change of command July 5. General North is the commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tung Trinh)
by Senior Airman James Croxon and Senior Airman Kerry Solan-Johnson
332d Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/11/2006 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Airmen are adapting to the battle space and an evolving enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces.
Lt. Gen. Gary North told Airmen here during a visit July 5, they are always ready to support ground commanders despite an increased operations tempo.
"This war has moved from contingency operations to sustained operations," General North said. "Sustainment, by nature, costs more in people away from home and in dollars to fight the war. Our goal is to be extremely effective and extremely efficient."
According to General North, Airmen are continuing to improve with each air expeditionary force rotation. Better Airmen are being presented each time and are making working and living conditions better for each rotation.
"We've aligned with the requirement and courageously employed Airmen from space down to convoy operations, including aeromedical support, prison guards and interrogators. We've utilized the flexibility, the speed and ingenuity of Airmen to allow us to do our air and space mission more effectively," General North said.
Adaptations learned on the battlefield are being applied each day, making it possible to cut the costs of sustained operations while increasing effectiveness, he said. One example of this is the deployed C-130 presence.
"We've been able to decrease our C-130 numbers in theater from a high of 64 down to the mid-40s while increasing their efficiency by 33 percent," General North said.
The general also said Airmen are winning the war by constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better.
"The best innovator is the Airman on the beat, whether that beat is convoy operations, controlling the airfield or behind the scope of a Predator," General North said. "It's the innovation of Airmen that has allowed us to go out and find (improvised explosive devices), design better convoy route methodologies and take the best maintenance practices here at Balad to fly F-16 (Fighting Falcons) at a rate unheard of in the history of the weapon system," he said.
"We've seen the same thing in our aging fleets," General North said. "Airmen are figuring out ways to present ready forces under incredibly daunting odds."