USAFE commander reviews past year in command

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elizabeth Culbertson
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
Allied and coalition relationships, operations south and east, Airmen's accomplishments and improving efficiency were at the forefront during the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander's Nov. 20 discussion of the past year in command.

Since Gen. William T. Hobbins took command Dec. 5, he has traveled to nearly 30 nations, demonstrating the importance of engagement and an interdependent mindset.

"(Working on military relationships) has been an extreme pleasure because these nations, many of them new NATO nations, want our involvement, want to learn from us, but, more importantly, we want to share our techniques, tactics and procedures on how we operate as Airmen," he said. "It has been a great opportunity."

Training and exercises in nations like Romania and Bulgaria are particularly valuable because they "improve our ability to work together and fight together," said the general.

The command's Theater Security Cooperation program had 438 engagements in 61 nations in fiscal year 2006, he said. The TSC events ranged from senior leader visits to medical, dental and optometric engagements in Africa.

Africa is also a crucial area due to its economic conditions and vast ungoverned areas, which make it a potential breeding ground for terrorists. The vast continent has gained importance not only due to its humanitarian problems, but due to the necessity to forge relations, he said.

"Building relationships is very key, I think, to USAFE's mission (in Africa)," General Hobbins said. "When we go down there and engage with these countries, we're helping them not only from a (military) intelligence standpoint, but also how to control their borders and control the terrorism flow, human trafficking and smuggling."

One of the benefits of TSC engagements is the trust that they build with nations in the area of responsibility, General Hobbins said.

"Many of our allies in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are members who live right here and work with us. So, for example, 17 of 22 nations in OIF and 19 of 26 nations in OEF are from coalitions that were formed right here and I think they were formed as a result of the trust and confidence that's been built from us being in Europe."

Despite all the memorable trips and senior leaders he's met thus far in his tenure, the general said the best part of the job is meeting the Airmen.

"My favorite part of this job has been getting out to see USAFE Airmen and what pride they have in the mission that they do," said General Hobbins.

More than 1,600 of the 30,000 Airmen deployed around the world are from USAFE. From cargo movement to training the Iraqi Air Force to fly C-130 Hercules, from medical aerovac to Afghanistan construction efforts, USAFE Airmen have been heavily engaged in OIF and OEF this past year, he said.

"The way they execute is phenomenal," he said. "It doesn't matter where they are; they could be in the most remote areas of Afghanistan or they could be living in an embassy."

Another mission area Airmen have been so successful in is humanitarian relief such as participating in Pakistan earthquake relief, evacuating 15,000 Americans from Lebanon, and airlifting African Union troops to the war-torn Darfur region, said General Hobbins.

"There's so much our Airmen are doing and I'm so proud to serve with them because they have continuously demonstrated the professionalism we've come to expect," he said. "I see great amounts of pride in our Airmen and that gives me a great amount of pride."

In addition to his role as USAFE commander, General Hobbins is also the Allied Air Component Command Ramstein commander, U.S. European Command air component commander, and director of the Multinational Joint Air Power Competence Center.

"I'm very interested in establishing a C4ISR roadmap, something that can define each (NATO) nation's participation and plan for how we're going to connect and interoperate in the future," he said.

The general later explained that cyberspace is a warfighting domain as much as air, land and sea, so we need to be properly equipped, fully prepared and ever-vigilant to protect it.

"We have increasing reliance on the capabilities of the electro-magnetic spectrum in warfare," he said. "We need to ensure continued cyberspace dominance and the C4ISR roadmap is one part of that."

In addition to the roadmap, General Hobbins said he was considering transformation for his NATO air component forces.

"At CC-Air, we're looking at the way the NATO force and command structures are aligned and how that could be done more efficiently," said the general.

Improving efficiency also tops the list of goals for USAFE.

"We're always looking for ways to be more efficient," he said. "By implementing Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century, we have a handle on how to become process-improved in a lot of ways. I'm looking for ways to handle these personnel cuts we face and to show our Airmen that as people leave and are not replaced, we have slimmed down the work process itself so the people who remain can handle it. We're trying to ensure that we rightsize the work for the future workforce."

"Improved efficiency also leads to savings," said the general. "We made tough decisions and invested wisely."

He explained that flying-hour efficiencies this past fiscal year will lead to improved quality of life for the command's Airmen, including funds for child development centers and youth programs, sports facilities, and American Forces Network decoders for households without AFN signal reception.

"We're recapitalizing Air Force-wide, we're fighting the war on terrorism and we're taking care of our people," General Hobbins said.