General discusses options for growing USAFE mission

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  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Rosine
  • Air Force Print News
As the Air Force evolves to meet and defeat future challenges, the Airmen of U.S. Air Forces in Europe are also expanding their mission toward the future.

During a visit to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Gen. William T. Hobbins discussed expanding operations in Africa and new NATO countries. 

"The actual formation of a command is being discussed," General Hobbins said. "The details have not been finalized so I can't tell you exactly what the Air Force role would be, but certainly there will be an Air Force component role, a very large one."

While a U.S. Africa Command is still being determined, the USAFE commander sees a lot of potential in the future command. Currently, USAFE is in charge of the African area of responsibility.

"First of all, the Department of Defense is going to gain a lot out of the U.S. Africa Command," the general said. "I think that they're going to be able to promote stability and really develop a situation where they're better able to respond to economic and diplomatic problems that occur. The African continent itself has many humanitarian needs. I think an African command will contribute to the political, economic stability and we'd be playing a big role in it from a Department of Defense role and also from an Air Force role."

Once the Africa Command is created, the general sees Air Force making a difference in many important region.

"In that area, you see a lot of human trafficking, a lot of drugs smuggling, a lot of illegal arms because the countries are so large and have uncontrolled borders. And over the years many kingdoms, many leaders have used these smuggling routes and of course this is an area for terrorism to just grow in a very bad way," General Hobbins said.

"So our involvement will be one to try and get into these cooperative security locations not only with our special operations forces but with our Army and Navy forces to try and understand how we can help them and control their borders and control the arms flow and control the illegal flow of drugs," the general said. "And, basically stop the lawlessness that can go on in those kinds of scenarios. So I see a great impact that we'll have on the war on terrorism."

The USAFE commander also spoke about the importance of the command's new relationships with new NATO allies.

"We're moving in with some of our newest NATO allies like Romania and Bulgaria," General Hobbins said. "One of the best benefits -- there is the actual ability to train with these new nations and build a long lasting relationship. It's being involved, their weapons training detachments allows us to build trust and confidence with our friends and neighbors. Poland is another good example moving east."

Poland recently began modernizing its air force by purchasing 48 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

"That's going to bring the newest most modern and sophisticated fighter to that area of the region," General Hobbins said. "We have already developed a strong military to military relationship that I know those new aircraft are just going to add to."

Romania and Bulgaria, also new NATO allies, have offered their vast air space to the Air Force to fly in.

"We will actually be able to rotate fighter units through there, about six per year, of a dozen or so aircraft coming down flying for two to three weeks getting valuable training in air space that's very large," the general said. "It's so large that you could actually put Nellis air space, overlay it on top of the ground maneuver ranges that are underneath."

And these relationships with new NATO allies will benefit combat Airmen downrange.

"(These nations) have great interest in helping us," General Hobbins said. "You will see them deploy with us in Afghanistan and Iraq in the war on terrorism." 

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