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James reiterates focus on modernization, efficiency

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James discusses modernization and how mobility Airmen enable the fight during the 48th Annual Airlift Tanker Association Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Oct. 28, 2015. The symposium served as a key professional development forum for Mobility Air Forces Airmen by enabling direct access to senior mobility leaders and fostering an environment encouraging open dialogue and honest discussions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Melissa Estevez)

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James discusses modernization and how mobility Airmen enable the fight during the 48th annual Airlift Tanker Association Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 28, 2016. The symposium served as a key professional development forum for Air Mobility Command Airmen by enabling direct access to senior mobility leaders and fostering an environment encouraging open dialogue and honest discussions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Melissa Estevez)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AFNS) -- Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James took the stage Oct. 28, at the 48th annual Airlift Tanker Association Convention to address the Air Force’s priority to maintain mission readiness and promote modernization in the coming years.

With increasing global threats, James reiterated her emphasis on the Air Force maintaining its global readiness. Air Mobility Command, assigned with enabling rapid aerial transportation missions, has been in the forefront of mobility efforts to support the current fight in Mosul, Iraq.

AMC professionals and capabilities enabled delivery of critical supplies, equipment, and ensured repairs of an airfield at Qayyarah West Airbase, near Mosul. Additionally, they also supplied ground forces in northern Iraq via a robust airdrop capability.

“(Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) tried to make sure that we could never go back to (Qayyarah West Airbase), detonating explosives and digging trenches in the runway to make it unusable for our aircraft,” James said. “The logistics team had to move 1.9-million pounds of supplies and equipment to repair the field. What (ISIL) spent two years destroying, our Airmen were able to rebuild in three weeks.”

Supporting combat and humanitarian missions abroad remains a primary focus, not only for AMC, but for the Air Force as a whole. These efforts can only be continued through modernizing the Air Force’s fleet to make sure it maintains air dominance.

“We need to invest in our modernization programs without sacrificing our readiness to operate effectively today,” James said. “We have to continue to repeat it to our Congress. This is not an either/or proposition. We need both readiness today, and we need to modernize for our future.”

With the introduction of the KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker due to be delivered to McConnell and Altus Air Force Bases in 2017, modernization efforts have already begun for the Air Force.

“The KC-46 is one of what we call the ‘Big 3’ modernization programs,” said the secretary. “This is just a piece of the whole modernization picture. We are doing this across the entire enterprise. We have the future fighter, the F-35 (Lightning II), and the future bomber, the B-21 (Raider), which round out our ‘Big 3.’”

Ensuring modernization, while maintaining readiness, has been an essential priority for James as she continues to work toward a more effective Air Force.

“Across the total force, with our allies and partners around the world, and with our industry partners, when we all come together, this mobility community creates unique capabilities that transform the fight.” James said. “These bonds we have built have been the foundation of success the Air Force, and the Joint Force, have relied on for generations. It is essential today, and will be even more critical in the years to come.”

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