Air Force secretary: Importance of joint mission can't be stressed enough

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Richard Williams
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The secretary of the Air Force spent time at Bagram Airfield Feb. 1 and 2 as part of a weeklong tour through the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

"One of the primary reasons for the trip was to monitor our efforts in training the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps," Secretary Michael Donley said.

"Part of the U.S. mission here is to train the Afghan forces to take responsibility for their own country, and it is a challenge, but they are coming on strong," he said. "We have some specialized training teams here who are doing an outstanding job and we are also sending some of the Afghan forces stateside (for training)."

The visit was his third in the last 18 months and it gave Secretary Donley, as he phrased it, "a chance for me to get out and reconnect with the operational side of the area of operations and get a real time site picture as to what is happening here."

At an open forum with 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen, Secretary Donley fielded questions on a variety of topics to include one of the wing's primary missions: supporting the warfighter.

"The importance of the joint mission cannot be stressed enough if we hope to achieve the overall success of our mission in Afghanistan," Secretary Donley said. The secretary said Air Force capabilities are a part of that "with the success of our MC-12 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, along with our airlift capabilities and close-air support."

During his visit, the secretary was able to meet with the members of Combined Joint Task Force-82 as well as Airmen from the 455th AEW to include the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, who fly the MC-12 aircraft. The secretary acknowledged the rapid impact this program has had.

"It is a really new capability that our Air Force has employed in the last year that went from no capability, no funding and no manpower to the first operational aircraft in the AOR in less than nine months," he noted. "That is a testament to our ISR capabilities and the importance of the support we provide the combatant commanders."

That support does not come without a cost, Secretary Donley acknowledged in responding to a question about current deployment rates, and noted that the operations tempo is not likely to lessen in the near future.

"With the Air Force's commitment to the joint mission comes the responsibility of filling the requirements as we are able. It is all dependent on what your job is and how deep the Air Force is in your capability and what the joint requirement the joint team needs at that particular time; kind of like an ebb and flow," he explained. "We know that some careers are stressed and we are trying to take steps to alleviate that stress."

"We are also focusing on the Year of the Air Force Family program," he added, "and are trying to ensure that with the operations tempo being what it is, the families are receiving the support needed to maintain matters at home while our Airmen are deployed."

The secretary voiced his appreciation for their service and sacrifice in performing duties for the nation.

"The bottom line is that the most important part of our Air Force is the people," Secretary Donley said. "The missions that you accomplish every day are essential to the long term success in Afghanistan, and I thank you for your commitment."