CSAF visits Aviano

  • Published
  • By 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Ms. Heidi H. Grant, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force, international affairs, and Mrs. Betty Welsh visited Airmen and their families Dec. 22, at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

During their visit to the 31st Fighter Wing, Welsh and Grant received a mission brief, participated in an open discussion during breakfast with Airmen and hosted an all call to address some of the main challenges the Air Force will face in 2015 and beyond.

Among the topics discussed were force shaping, fleet modernization and renewing an operational focus in the face of persisting fiscal austerity.

"If we keep you guys, we win. If we lose you, we might as well hang it up now," Welsh said to more than a thousand Airmen and their families gathered in a hangar.

Following the all call, a few outstanding performers were recognized by Welsh for their professionalism and leadership.

Welsh and Grant have been working closely with Defense Department leaders, as well as Congress, to strike the right balance between preserving funding for people and programs and maintaining the capacity to project power abroad.

"The 510th Fighter Squadron could be ordered to go conduct Baltic Air Policing in three days," Welsh said. "Because of their professionalism and readiness, there's no question about their ability to make this happen."

During the all call, Welsh also discussed the importance of pride to the future of the Air Force. He described a passage he found in his father's will, retired Air Force Col. Mark A. Welsh Jr., that showed how much the Air Force meant to him.

"He'd given specific instructions about his funeral and other events, but he only underlined one thing: 'Bury me in my service dress,' " Welsh said.

Before his appointment to CSAF, Welsh served as U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces in Africa commander and he noted the continued importance of air power in this area of responsibility.

"Despite the shift to the Pacific, there are still operational requirements in Europe," Welsh said regarding the missions that Aviano is called on to support. "While we have reduced our presence in this theater, the need for combat capability is still very real."