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Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium welcomes 900 mobility professionals

U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives the opening address for the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Grapevine, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018. A/TA provides mobility Airmen a professional development forum to engage with industry experts within the mobility enterprise, attend seminars focused on mobility priorities, and listen to leadership perspectives from top leaders in the Air Force and Department of Defense.    (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jodi Martinez)

U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives the opening address for the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Grapevine, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018. A/TA provides mobility Airmen a professional development forum to engage with industry experts within the mobility enterprise, attend seminars focused on mobility priorities, and listen to leadership perspectives from top leaders in the Air Force and Department of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jodi Martinez)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, gives the first major address of the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Grapevine, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018. Wilson spoke about the Air Force's status in restoring readiness in the force and outlined plans to grow squadrons, develop leaders, and cost-effectively modernize to succeed in the current age of great power competition. A/TA provides mobility Airmen a professional development forum to engage with industry experts within the mobility enterprise, attend seminars focused on mobility priorities, and listen to leadership perspectives from top leaders in the Air Force and Department of Defense.     (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jodi Martinez)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, gives the first major address of the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Grapevine, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018. Wilson spoke about the Air Force's status in restoring readiness in the force and outlined plans to grow squadrons, develop leaders, and cost-effectively modernize to succeed in the current age of great power competition (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jodi Martinez)

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AFNS) -- The 50th Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium and technology convention kicked off Oct. 25 near Dallas, Texas, where Air Mobility Command aims to develop Total Force mobility professionals across the world.

A/TA is the Mobility Air Force’s premier professional development training event with about 900 Airmen in attendance this year.

Holding true to this year’s them, ‘heritage, heroes and horizons,’ Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva opened the symposium with an address reflecting on Mobility Air Force’s predecessors and recognizing current Mobility Airmen who continue the mobility legacy.

“Look around the room,” said Selva. “You are all extraordinary. The work you do every day helps us define this nation. There isn’t a single place that you won’t go; there isn’t any place you can’t take us that allows us to do our mission. Everything that defines mobility is defined by you.”

Gen. Maryanne Miller, Air Mobility Command commander, highlighted the need to continually evolve to keep up with a changing world.

“Our forces must be prepared and ready to operate in any environment,” said Miller.

“Agility is key, partnerships are vital, and innovation and investment in our people are absolutely essential.”

Professional training forums, such as A/TA, represent an investment in Airmen, and offer opportunities for senior leaders to shape understanding of issues and ensure enhanced understanding of expectations and roles associated with the mobility force—taking a look at the past to present day.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson recognized past logistical feats like the Berlin Airlift, whose 70-year old legacy remains one of the greatest airlift successes of the nations’ history.

She also commended mobility forces who swiftly responded to Hurricane Michael, enabling Tyndall Air Force Base to be rebuilt and restored quickly and safely. Mobility capabilities, Wilson said, stretch across the globe, where Mobility Airmen have the ability to build airstrips that may not have been there a day before or extend the strength and power of the nation at any time.

“So, where do we go from here?” Wilson asked. “First and foremost, air refueling is a no fail mission for a global power.”

Tankers are key to power projection in an era that is defined by the great power competition, said Wilson. The delivery of the Air Force’s newest tanker, the KC-46 Pegasus, which is expected to be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base this year, is just one part in that mission. In an effort to deliver the mobility force the nation needs to meet future threats, the Secretary discuss the need to grow the force.

“The Air Force we need in the 2025 timeframe will need more tanker squadrons,” said Wilson. “In fact, our analysis says we’ll need 14 more tanker squadrons.”

Additionally, the Air Force plans to have 386 operational squadrons across the force by 2030, 74 more than the force has today.

Wilson said the Air Force is dedicated to revitalizing the force, which includes addressing the 4000-maintainer deficit that plagued the Air Force years ago. By the end of the year, Wilson said that shortage will be eliminated.

In an effort to retain and grow maintainers, Miller indicated the maintainers are a key area of focus.

“I plan to reach out directly to my maintainers,” said Miller. “We have the number of maintainers required, but the skillset is slightly out of balance due to them just coming on board in our Air Force. We must grow, develop, and retain these young Airmen and talented maintainers.”

Throughout the event, Mobility Airmen will continue to develop their knowledge of current operations and the mobility enterprise future through keynote addresses from Department of Defense leaders and 36 seminar opportunities. One of those seminars includes the AMC Phoenix Spark Tank Competition, where AMC finalists will unveil their mobility innovations for a chance to represent AMC at the Air Force competition. Innovations that may help Airmen deal with an increasingly dynamic global environment.

“The National Defense Strategy clearly articulates the way the world has and continues to evolve,” said Miller. “As the world rapidly changes, we must adapt and do our part to deliver joint force capability solutions wherever and whenever required. And, we will.” said Miller.

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