CSAF: Balad Airmen up to the challenge of Iraq mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stacy Fowler
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, visited the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing here June 24.

"It's great to be back with the Red Tails (Airmen at Joint Base Balad, Iraq)," he said during an Airmen's Call. "I'm glad visibility finally improved so we would be able to visit you and see how the mission continues here."

His visit was one of several to bases in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility where Airmen are deployed in support of operations enduring freedom and Iraqi freedom.

"In 12 months, you have conducted 100,000-plus flying hours, flown 22,000-plus sorties, transported 76,000 tons of cargo and 300,000 passengers," General Schwartz said. "These numbers are not trivial; you should be proud of them. You don't get to 22,000 sorties if everyone isn't doing the mission."

General Schwartz reiterated the importance of being a good wingman, especially when it comes to suicide prevention.

"In 2009, the Air Force had more suicides than in past years, and we are already higher in 2010," he said. "If you have problems or are distressed, don't hesitate to ask for help.

"Wingmen, watch your buddy. Don't let your wingman suffer without offering assistance," he said. "The wingman concept is not media hype; this is what families do. We look out for each other."

General Schwartz discussed other high-interest issues for Airmen, including the drawdown of troops from Iraq, and what they might expect by this time next year.

"We are steadily handing the mission of the country's security to the Iraqi government," he said. "Joint Base Balad is a major hub for this drawdown, and then you will also hand off the mission to the Iraqi forces."

The JB Balad Airmen are "definitely up to the challenge," the general said. "Keep doing what you are doing and we will be successful."

"Everyone has to work hard when completing the mission, or the mission doesn't succeed," the general said. "Watch out for each other, and come home safe."