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SECAF discusses tenure with Pope Airmen

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Air Force Secretary Dr. James G. Roche recently reflected on his accomplishments in the position with a small group of Airmen here.

Everywhere he goes, the secretary said he meets great Airmen who are working very hard to protect the nation. He cares about the welfare of Airmen and has worked hard to improve their quality of life, he said.

Secretary Roche said his focus on people made it difficult for him to name his greatest accomplishment. “We have had so many accomplishments,” he said, “but it wasn’t me. It’s been all about the people.”

Secretary Roche said his office and the Air Force chief of staff had two separate staffs when he began his tenure. Sometimes the staffs would go in different directions, he said, so the staffs were merged to ensure a synchronized effort and break down barriers, fostering more cooperative working relationships throughout the Air Force.

He said that breaking down education barriers, such as sending enlisted Airmen to the Air Force Institute of Technology, was a source of great pride. “The Force Development Program will provide better education, training and experience for Air Force officers and enlisted (Airmen),” he said. “We need valued education … education that matters,” he said, where Airmen are getting degrees in areas that help them in their Air Force jobs.

Secretary Roche said he was also pleased that under his leadership, racial and gender issues were “faced upfront.” Women are now serving in virtually every specialty in the Air Force, he said.

The secretary said he hopes to see more women pursue career fields, such as flying, that traditionally have been dominated by men. "Women aviators have done an outstanding job," he said.

Women have an important, but sometimes unrecognized, role in the Air Force and should continue to be offered every opportunity to contribute, he said.

During his tenure, the Air Force has seen technological and strategic advances, the secretary said, including the creative use of the Global Positioning System, integration of space operations and the increased role of unmanned aircraft. The result has been a dramatic increase in the speed of military operations, he said.

Secretary Roche also discussed successes in integration with sister services and coalition partners in military operations. He cited the combined air operations center as just one example of how capabilities can be brought together to produce devastating combat effects.

Secretary Roche was appointed Air Force secretary in 2001. He will be leaving his position on Jan. 20.

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