Chief of staff: Warrior Airmen new culture of Air Force

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates
  • Air Force News Agency
Today's Airmen are in the fight.

As the war on terrorism continues in the Middle East and the war on drugs continues in South and Central America, Airmen are engaged in struggles across the globe.

"We are warfighters," said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff. "From the pilots who drop bombs on target in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the security forces person protecting a forward-deployed base, to the combat search and rescue teams risking their own lives to save others, Airmen are contributing to the fight each and every day."

Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Keith Ferencz, a vehicle operator who is serving as a convoy commander in Iraq as part of the Army's 70th Truck Company. He routinely drives on some of the most dangerous roads in the world -- sometimes for six or more days at a time -- to bring much needed supplies and equipment to Army units scattered throughout Iraq.

"It's tough duty, but it's satisfying duty," said Sergeant Ferencz, who is on his second tour as a convoy commander in Iraq. "Every time we take to the road we face numerous threats."

These include ambushes and improvised explosive devices. Sergeant Ferencz is very familiar with the latter. Only recently, a vehicle he was driving was disabled by an IED.

Sergeant Ferencz is not alone in his experiences. He is one of thousands of Airmen who are filling billets traditionally held by Army Soldiers -- jobs such as prison guards, imbedded trainers, convoy operators and other positions that regularly take Airmen outside the wire.

"These Airmen are out there day after day performing missions that aren't inherent to airpower, and missions they never signed up for," General Moseley said. "They're not only doing these jobs, they're doing them well."

Staff Sgt. Rory Sturm is another of these Airmen. He is a security forces member assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. His job is to provide road security for convoys by scouting routes to ensure they are free of insurgents and bombs.

This is a dangerous job and he has the hardware to prove it. He received a Purple Heart for wounds caused when an IED blew apart his Humvee in October. The blast ripped a hole in the side of the vehicle, peppering Sergeant Sturm and the other occupants with shrapnel.

He got right back on the roads, though, doing his best to ensure the convoys he protects make it to their destination safe and sound.

"It's a dangerous job; no doubt about it," Sergeant Ferencz said. "But someone has to do it so it might as well be me."

This sentiment is mirrored by Capt. Jason Kuhns, a C-130 Hercules pilot who flies regular missions into and out of Iraq. Sometimes they deliver supplies, other times they deliver wave after wave of Soldiers to the fight.

Even to this day the sky over Iraq is not exactly safe. But airlift pilots continue to fly missions into this potentially deadly airspace.

"Every bit of cargo or troops we are able to deliver using our planes means one less convoy that needs to be on the roads," Captain Kuhns said. "And that means fewer lives lost to IEDS and other threats."

That, he added, is what it's all about -- putting boots on the ground, supplying the troops and saving lives in the process.

All three of these Airmen are proof that today's Air Force is an agile, warfighting team, capable of performing any task, at any place and at any time. On any given day, 53 percent of the Air Force is assigned to a combatant commander. That's more than any other service.

"No matter what we are asked to do, we accomplish," General Moseley said. "Whether in space, in the air or on land we do what our nation needs us to."

All this happens despite an aging aircraft fleet of tankers, bombers and fighters and manpower reductions that have cut the force nearly in half since the early '90s.

"The Air Force is half as big but 10 times as busy," said the general.

Something, he added, that is not going to change any time soon. The Air Force has been deployed to the Middle East in one form or another for the past 16 years and the general predicts this trend will continue for at least the next 10 to 15.

Still, today's Airmen are of a high caliber and consistently find ways to get the job done.
"We are the world's premiere air and space force," General Moseley said. "And we prove that every single day."

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