CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley made his first trip here as secretary Aug. 22 to visit service members and civilians, and discuss operations in East Africa with Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa leaders.
Donley conducted an all call during his visit here, in which he discussed the Air Force’s role in Africa and around the world, and took questions from attendees.
“The United States’ engagements in Africa are critical (in the fight) against al-Qaida,” said Donley. “Our goal is to ensure al-Qaida never again has the opportunity or capacity to attack the U.S. We take an active approach (to meet that goal) here.”
Donley also thanked the camp’s Airmen for their service to the nation.
“A safe, secure and stable Africa is certainly in our national interest,” Donley said. “(To build) partner nation capacity, it takes every Airman doing his or her job. So, I thank you and your family for making the mission happen.”
In discussing the future of the Air Force, Donley said modernization is one of his top priorities for the service.
“Modernization is the most significant concern moving forward,” Donley said. “We’re shaping the Air Force today to ensure its strength for tomorrow. Modernization is the principal challenge as we look forward.”
The secretary also discussed the Air Force’s approach to smaller defense budgets, noting that the service has proposed reducing its force by about 9,900 Airmen and 280 aircraft over the next five years.
“We’re in challenging times,” Donley said. “As our Air Force gets smaller, all components will get smaller; but we will stay ready. We intend to be a superb force at any size.”
Although the Air Force will see many changes in the near future, the professional development, readiness and care of Airmen will not be overlooked, according to Donley.
“With these priorities in mind, we can still take care of our Airmen,” Donley said. “Our Air Force and country need you to be great. Part of this is making sure we have the resources available to train Airmen and ensure their readiness.”
During a question-and-answer period after Donley’s formal remarks, one senior noncommissioned officer echoed the secretary’s concern for Airmen.
“How do we fight this battle of DUIs and suicides?” asked Master Sgt. Joe Cason, a first sergeant here.
“There is no easy answer,” Donley responded, noting the seriousness with which Air Force leadership is taking suicide prevention. “As wingmen, watch out for who’s on your wing and know you have tremendous resources to back you up.”
Before departing, Donley shared a few words to emphasize the importance of every Airman’s role in mission success.
“Leaders across the Department of Defense recognize your efforts (here),” Donley said. “Your Air Force is the envy of every military in the world.
We’re committed to ensuring our Air Force remains the greatest air, space and cyberspace power in the world.”