The Chief of Staff of the Air Force escorted the 25th Secretary of the Air Force on an overseas tour of military installations, where she immersed herself with the scope of missions supporting real world contingency, humanitarian and NATO alliance operations.
Rounding off a multi-day tour spanning the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein visited Ramstein Air Base, Nov. 22, where they received an overview of the installation, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, and the military missions conducted here.
Located in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, Ramstein coordinates and synchronizes efforts with joint and coalition partners in-theater to support the NATO alliance, while providing responsive airlift, airdrop and aeromedical capabilities to combatant commanders.
Barrett said one common theme she noticed from each location she visited was the power and importance of alliances and partnerships.
“Partnerships are what will make the difference in our ability to take the fight to the enemy and defend America and its interests,” Barrett said. “Making alliances and partnerships is an essential part of what we need to do, and we’re doing that, as I’ve just observed through my time traveling this past week.”
While visiting Ramstein, Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing, 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing presented an array of capabilities to give the senior leaders a more in-depth perspective of the missions conducted within mainland Europe, as well as in Africa and the Middle East. The mission-specific presentations highlighted some of Ramstein’s latest technology and strategic capabilities, including en route patient staging, explosive ordnance disposal, deployable air traffic control and landing systems, and 3D printing.
These mission requirements need regular investment of modern tools, techniques and hardware to safely do the job Airmen are entrusted to do. This additionally requires first-rate training to be ready to face any challenge, as outlined in the National Defense Strategy.
“Thoughtfully working to build readiness that gets the job done and focuses on the mission will implement the National Defense Strategy,” Barrett said. “We need to give our Airmen the tools they need … and that means modernizing – getting equipment in your hands, on time, so that you are ready to work.”
After seeing various base units, Barrett and Goldfein’s next stops included visits to Headquarters USAFE – AFAFRICA, the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center and the Nuclear University Training Facility where the two received immersion briefings that highlighted day-to-day operations and initiatives within the major command.
One of the initiatives briefed was the Agile Combat Employment concept. ACE ensures USAFE-AFAFRICA is ready for potential contingencies with little notice by allowing forces to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support, ensuring Airmen and aircrews are postured to respond across the spectrum of military operations.
They also discussed Operation GRIT, which is a commandwide resiliency program with a holistic approach to strengthen resiliency, reinforce protective factors and reduce unwanted behaviors through deliberate and meaningful personal and professional development from commanders and supervisors.
During an all call, Barrett and Goldfein took time to answer Airmen’s questions. Correlating a key objective of developing leaders within today and tomorrow’s Air Force, Goldfein addressed several concerns about retention.
“The investment we’re making in inspirational, courageous and caring leaders at the squadron level – to me – is probably the most important retention work that we’re doing,” he said.
Goldfein went on to explain that quality of service and making a career in the Air Force the richest experience possible are also key factors in retaining Airmen. He asked those serving today to consider the importance of the Air Force culture and the preservation of the American way of life.
“If what motivates you is that you’re part of something much bigger than yourself, that when you put on this uniform you’re defending America back home, that the Airmen to your right and to your left are the most incredible people on the planet, and that you’re part of a high-powered team in your squadron, where the culture is such that you feel valued and you are contributing – that’s our culture,” Goldfein said.
This Air Force culture has proven to be a shining example of the American spirit.
“It’s important for us to be represented favorably around the world, and that’s partly done and favorably done by our Air Force, everywhere,” Barrett said. “The capability, the competence, the leadership, the strength of character and integrity that the United States Airmen demonstrate, help us serve well to build friendships, alliances and partnerships that will last.”
This heavy responsibility levied upon all service members is one which is not lost on Air Force leadership.
“Someone has to stand between the sheep and the wolves,” Goldfein said. “Never take for granted the importance of your service in the military right now because evil exists and someone’s got to be the sheepdog. That’s you.”