SECDEF visits Air Force wounded warrior care facility

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Secretary of Defense visited Ramstein Air Base Friday to show his appreciation for the dedicated and hard-working service members who ensure wounded warriors receive world-class care.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta started his visit at the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility here, where in front of more than 100 Airmen, reporters and commanders, he delivered a heartfelt speech on his appreciation for the job of caring for wounded service members.

“Continue to do what you do best, which is to take these lives (of wounded service members) and give them a new life so they can be with their family,” said Panetta, the 23rd defense secretary. “I deeply appreciate what all of you do, I can’t tell you how proud we are of the service you provide.”

The CASF is a transitional center that provides 24/7 support for all scheduled and unscheduled aeromedical evacuation missions transiting through Ramstein. The CASF ensures safe transport and staging of wounded service members between aircraft and the next higher level of care.

“We are extremely honored that the leader of the world’s greatest military was able to come and visit,” said Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde, 86th Airlift Wing commander. “The Airmen at Ramstein deliver the world’s best aeromedical evacuation capabilities … it means a lot to us to have Secretary Panetta thank our troops for the selfless jobs they do.”

Panetta also took the time to answer some questions from the Airmen at the CASF including one about the future of the Air Force with pending budget cuts.
“By virtue of the drawdown that is taking place, we must be agile, quickly deployable and flexible, we’ve got to be able to move,” said Panetta. “But we also have to be on the technological edge; we’ve got to make sure these troops have the best technology available to them for the future.” Before coming to Ramstein, the secretary attended a NATO conference, where he talked to European and NATO allies.

“We wanted to make clear to our allies that we are going to maintain a significant presence here in Europe,” said Panetta. “At the same time we have to maintain our presence everywhere; that is very important to our security. Here in Europe, we are going to have the largest troop presence of anywhere else in the world.”
He said there will be two additional brigades developed in the U.S. to rotate into Europe to conduct training and exercises twice a year to continue the strong U.S. presence.

In addition, Panetta said, “We’re going to maintain our forward presence in the Pacific, because that is where some of the problems are that we’re going to face in the future and the same thing is true for the Middle East.”
Panetta started his service to the nation as an Army intelligence officer in 1964 and was sworn in as the defense secretary July 1, 2011.