USAF senior leaders visit Mariana Islands on ACE trip

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  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force David Flosi continued their week-long tour of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility visiting Saipan, Tinian, and Guam April 4.

While in the Mariana Islands, the senior leaders met with elected officials, as well as Airmen who are expanding Agile Combat Employment capabilities in the area.

“It was a privilege to meet with Governor Palacios and Lieutenant Governor Apatang on Saipan, Mayors Camacho and Aldan on Tinian, and then Governor Guerrero on Guam,” Kendall said. “Key locations require key partnerships and strong community support. Our American community leaders in the Indo-Pacific region are important members of our national security team. The leadership, close cooperation, and candid feedback provided by community leaders is crucial to our efforts.”

The meetings with elected officials offered the opportunity to address local interest in Air Force efforts to restore military capability within the island chain. It also provided a moment for local leaders to pass along their support for U.S. forces and their continued desire to work together on future projects.

On Tinian, the senior leaders observed the adaptive rehabilitation work being done on the North Field in support of ACE. The Airmen there are restoring over 20 million square feet of degraded World War II pavement so that ultimately the rejuvenated runway can serve as a power projection platform.

“Our Airmen at Tinian are successfully expanding our Agile Combat Employment options to enhance deterrence, increase flexibility, and, if needed, rapidly generate combat power,” said Allvin. “They are the pathfinders for advancing our scheme of maneuver in the Indo-Pacific.”

When Allvin was welcomed as the 23rd Chief of Staff of the Air Force in November, he challenged Airmen to “solve for agility – initiating action in the right direction while building in the flexibility to learn and adjust while in motion.”

The Airmen on Tinian accepted that challenge and moved out quickly.

“We arrived on this island with little in terms of plans and resources, but immediately acquired the best we could and started executing our mission,” said Capt. Matthew Jacobs, 513th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron officer in charge. “We’ve learned lessons and had to adjust fire along the way but have persevered to lay the groundwork for critical efforts going forward. I couldn’t be prouder of the work this team has accomplished in our time here.”

The team broke ground in January, initiating clearance of hundreds of acres of tropical jungle currently enveloping the airfield. Despite limited resources, austere conditions, and environmental challenges, the civil engineers continued to solve for agility.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to navigate endless logistical hurdles to bring the people, equipment, and resources here for this herculean effort,” Jacobs said. “Our Airmen adapted and made the mission happen.”

The team’s clearing progress facilitated an initial tranche of austere landings at North Field. The landings were conducted as part of regional exercises. The team also enabled an upcoming beddown of additional personnel and generated a laydown area required to repave North Field. In addition, the Airmen continue to evaluate the integrity of the current pavement while planning how best to bolster the airfield as fast as possible.

“Meeting our RED HORSE engineering Airmen was a delight,” Kendall said. “This small team has a large task. They are working at a remote, austere location to reclaim a historical airfield. Equally impressive is their detailed care to protect the historical record, environment, and natural habitat during this effort to increase our security.”

On Guam, Allvin and Flosi conducted an all call with Team Andersen. During the hour-long session, the two discussed the Department of the Air Force’s reoptimization initiative, as well as the important work the Airmen on Guam are performing and its strategic importance.

“Our Airmen here at Andersen are at the tip of the spear of the Indo-Pacific,” Allvin said. “Not only are they protecting and defending the territory of the United States, but also building partnerships and shaping the operational environment, which is key to deterring aggression.”

All three senior leaders were also briefed by Andersen leadership on their trip on the status of recovery efforts from Typhoon Mawar, which struck Guam last year.

“Typhoon Mawar struck nearly a year ago,” Kendall said. “Team Andersen has done a remarkable job at restoring mission capability, especially given the full scope of damage. However, full restoration remains incomplete — our trip has helped me fully appreciate the resources needed for this task.”