***image1***Civilian leaders participating in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference got a firsthand, and sometimes hands-on, look recently at how U.S. Air Forces in Europe supports the war on terror.
About 50 business, academic and local government leaders from throughout the United States sat in the cockpits of F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters and climbed aboard KC-135 Stratotankers, A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthogs” and C-130 Hercules troop transports.
The civilian leaders watched demonstrations of how Airmen palletize loads for transport, and some tried their hand at securing them within aircraft. Later, following a briefing on U.S. European Command by Gen. Charles F. Wald, the EUCOM’s deputy commander, they watched the 86th Contingency Response Group conduct an “engine-running offload,” similar to the operations that were peformed to open Bashur Air Base in northern Iraq.
Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAFE commander, called the chance to host “shakers and movers” from throughout the U.S an invaluable opportunity.
“They carry our message for us wherever they go more effectively than anybody I know,” he said. “I never miss the opportunity to share the exciting work we do with very influential citizens who leave here and spread the word to their communities about the wonderful things our men and women in uniform are doing.”
Foglesong said there’s no better way to introduce civilians to the military than to expose them to the world’s best fighting force and its equipment. “You take somebody and set them in an F-16, and there’s a tremendous appreciation of what they put their taxpayer dollars toward,” he said. “And they gain an appreciation that we never want to send our sons and daughters into a fair fight. This equipment reflects that unfair fight.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Rosanne “Ro” Bailey, commander of the 435th Air Base Wing here as well as the KMC, said she sees “huge benefits” in supporting the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. “What we do is so little understood by the American people,” she said. “People know what they see on the television news. What they don’t see is the incredible energy and talent and dedication of our young Americans working 12-hour shifts out here every day.”
Bailey said civilians who see this and recognize the critical role America’s young servicemembers are carrying out gain a unique appreciation of the military. “When they understand what we do, they become ambassadors for us in the community,” she said. “They take the good news about what we are doing home.”
Bailey said her message to the civilian leaders is pretty straightforward: “Meet my people. See what they’re doing and be proud of them.”
Climbing out of the cockpit of an F-16 fighter, Jim Rich, senior vice president of operations for Frito Lay, raved about “an amazing piece of equipment” and the caliber of the pilots who operate it. “It takes a lot of training,” he said. “It’s just amazing how competent these kids are flying these things.”
Jim Schloeman, president of the Transport Museum Association in St. Louis, took the opportunity to express his appreciation to Maj. Greg Wilson, an F-16E pilot from the 492nd Flight Squadron based at Royal Air Force base Lakenheath, England. Wilson has flown missions in both Iraq and Kosovo.
Thank you so much,” Schloeman said, shaking Wilson’s hand. “You’re doing the absolute best job. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.”
Richard Roper, president of the Roper Group, a public policy consulting firm in Newark, N.J., said he had expected that the U.S. military presence in Europe would be “sophisticated and first class.” What he wasn’t expecting, he said, was the quality of the leadership he observed during his visit to Ramstein.
“It’s obvious that they’re articulate and thoughtful and committed,” he said. “It gives you a great deal of confront about what the military should be able to accomplish anywhere in the world.”
“I’m really impressed with the professionalism I’ve seen — not just the officers, but the young enlisted guys, too,” agreed Bob Irish, managing partner for Dynamic Results in Dallas. “They know their stuff, and you can see that they love what they do.”