CSAF ends Turkey visit at Incirlik

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sara Csurilla
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz capped a multi-day visit to Turkey by meeting with U.S. and Turkish airmen here July 21.

The Air Force's top uniformed officer visited with Airmen around the base and addressed issues affecting the Air Force with more than 500 Airmen during an all call at Incirlik Air Base's consolidated club complex.

General Schwartz opened the discussion by emphasizing the importance of every Airman's impact on the mission.

"Everybody counts," he said. "Everybody matters, and if everyone doesn't play their position, then there is no way the team can succeed."

The general stressed the importance of professionalism and excellence in executing the Air Force mission.

"There are a number of jobs or tasks in our Air Force that need to be taken as seriously as brain surgery," the general said. "To make sure these things are done correctly, it is important for us to emphasize standards, safety and compliance."

General Schwartz also explained the challenges the Air Force faces with manning levels.

"At the moment, the Air Force is about 4,000 military members over strength," General Schwartz said. "We are experiencing the best retention that we have seen in 15 years. That's a good thing, but the consequence is that we have too many military members."

The general said several incentive programs for voluntary separation have been implemented, but the Air Force is still exceeding its manning ceiling and the number of Airmen will have to be reduced.

"We will do it carefully and with compassion," he said.

The general said the involuntary reductions are unfortunate, but necessary.

"We don't want to, but we have to do this," he said.

Another serious subject General Schwartz discussed with the Airmen was the number of suicides in the Air Force.

"The Air Force is experiencing a rate of suicide that exceeds where we were last year, and last year was the highest rate of suicides in our Air Force ever," he said. "I can't think of anything more tragic than a family member taking his or her own life. If you are stressed or you have issues you are struggling with, please ask for help."

General Schwartz said it is up to every Airman to intervene if it appears a wingman is having problems and needs help.

"We value our family members far too much, so reach out to those who appear to be at risk," the general said.

General Schwartz also thanked Airmen for their efforts at Incirlik AB, which he said were vital to a secure region.

"In my view, you are deployed in place, and you are doing work that is vital to the fight right now," he said. "You're doing work that will sustain relationships with our Turkish host, which will keep Incirlik (AB) as a place where the U.S. armed forces may have the opportunity to operate in the future."

During a question and answer session with attendees, one Airman asked the general his thoughts concerning the new physical fitness standards implemented this month.

"The reality is we have to be fit to deliver on our promise of being able to execute as an Air Force," General Schwartz said.

The general noted the effect fitness has on health care costs, and the role fitness plays in meeting the expectations of how people in the U.S. view their military.

"American people do have certain expectations of what their military looks like, and being fit is part of that image," he said.

General Schwartz ended the all call by expressing his appreciation for the work of the men and women stationed here.

"We all have special obligations," he said. "I want to make sure you understand how important and how special what you're doing truly is to the nation. Keep making us proud."