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COMPACAF visits Eielson, talks Arctic Strategy and PACAF future

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Trenton Ross, Joint Terminal Attack Controller Continuation Training manager (right), salutes Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander after being coined, Feb. 19, 2021 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Trenton Ross, Joint Terminal Attack Controller Continuation Training manager (right), salutes Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander after being coined, Feb. 19, 2021 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Ross was one of several Eielson Airmen recognized for their outstanding work and contributions made to their unit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Amn Danielle Sukhlall)

Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, Gen. Ken Wilsbach, and PACAF Command Chief Master Sgt. David R. Wolfe listen to an Airman’s question during an all call at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021.

Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, Gen. Ken Wilsbach, and PACAF Command Chief Master Sgt. David R. Wolfe listen to an Airman’s question during an all call at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021. The all call served as an open forum for PACAF leaders to discuss operations in the Pacific theater and to address questions and concerns directly from Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Dave R. Wolfe, Pacific Air Forces command chief, interacts with 354th Fighter Wing noncommissioned officers during an NCO all call at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Dave R. Wolfe, Pacific Air Forces command chief, interacts with 354th Fighter Wing noncommissioned officers during an NCO all call at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021. The purpose of the NCO all call is to have a discussion about Eielson’s role in the PACAF area of responsibility and have an open discussion with the Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Dave R. Wolfe, Pacific Air Forces command chief, interacts with Airmen assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing, during a PACAF leadership visit to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Dave R. Wolfe, Pacific Air Forces command chief, interacts with Airmen assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing, during a PACAF leadership visit to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021. Wolfe joined the Airmen for breakfast to have a discussion about Eielson’s role in the PACAF area of responsibility and to answer their questions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

Cindy Wilsbach (left), spouse of Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Ken Wilsbach, and Dr. Doniel Wolfe, spouse of PACAF Command Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, meet with Paige Ellsworth, a Corvias Leasing and Resident Center leasing resident associate, during a visit to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021

Cindy Wilsbach (left), spouse of Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Ken Wilsbach, and Dr. Doniel Wolfe, spouse of PACAF Command Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, meet with Paige Ellsworth, a Corvias Leasing and Resident Center leasing resident associate, during a visit to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021. Wilsbach and Wolfe toured several quality of life facilities including on-base housing and the child development center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Martin)

Brian Lennon, Child Development Center (CDC) assistant flight chief, guides Cindy Wilsbach, spouse of Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Ken Wilsbach, on a tour of the CDC during a visit to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021.

Brian Lennon, Child Development Center (CDC) assistant flight chief, guides Cindy Wilsbach, spouse of Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Ken Wilsbach, on a tour of the CDC during a visit to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 19, 2021. The CDC staff highlighted their biggest successes, shortfalls and issues they experienced as a result of the pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Martin)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Adam Starkey, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) commander (left), briefs Gen. Ken. Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, on LRS Snow Fleet operations and equipment, Feb. 19, 2021, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Adam Starkey, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) commander (left), briefs Gen. Ken. Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, on LRS Snow Fleet operations and equipment, Feb. 19, 2021, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The snow fleet is a critical asset for Eielson which is one of the Air Force’s northern most bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Amn Danielle Sukhlall)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

U.S. Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, PACAF command chief, and their spouses visited Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 18-19, 2021. 

 

The purpose of the visit was to give PACAF leaders the opportunity to get an in-depth look at the 354th Fighter Wing and the 168th Wing’s day-to-day missions, and to meet with the members of Team Eielson.

 

During the visit the leaders consistently emphasized Eielson’s role in the PACAF strategic vision and the Department of Defense Arctic strategy.

 

“I know everybody's heard it before, but back in the early 1900s, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell said, ‘Whoever controls Alaska controls the world,’ and he understood back then and we know it even more today,” said Wilsbach. 

 

The general and the chief pointed to Eielson as a crucial piece to the development of the Air Force Arctic strategy which was announced in July 2020. 

 

Wilsbach said that while PACAF headquarters is in Hawaii more than 3,000 miles away, their minds are constantly on Alaska because of its strategic location and what Eielson brings to the fight. 

 

In the last year and a half, the 354th Fighter Wing reactivated two F-35A fighter squadrons and received more than two dozen fifth-generation fighters. The wing is slated to receive all 54 aircraft by the end of the year.

 

“We must do agile combat employment because if we don't, we will be very vulnerable to losing the fight, especially if we have to fight China,” said Wilsbach. “As we go forward [with] building up the F-35 capability here, we're [also] taking advantage of the strategic location that Alaska and Eielson provides us.”

 

On the other side of the installation, PACAF key spouses Cindy Wilsbach and Dr. Doniel Wolfe focused on the issues affecting the Airmen, their families and their quality-of-life. To get an accurate picture of what life is like for Team Eielson, Wilsbach and Wolfe spoke with local key spouses, met with base health care providers, and toured support facilities like the Child Development Center and base housing. 

 

The general and chief commended Team Eielson for their perseverance and dedication to the mission in spite of COVID-19. 

 

“Incredible progress has been made with bringing [Eielson’s] new capability up to speed. It's kind of staggering to see the amount of new refurbished capability,” said Wolfe. “To see more people not only get the opportunity to do this mission but to be able to come to a great state like Alaska and live the Alaska lifestyle is pretty amazing.”

 

Referencing his time as 11th Air Force commander from 2016 to 2018, Wilsbach found joy in seeing plans that were once only visible on paper come to life.

 

“It is so exciting to see all the new construction that's happened on the base that in my mind used to be a PowerPoint slide or a piece of paper and now it's a real building,” he said. “The other thing that's really impressive is, everybody we talked to is extra fired up about being here. And in the age of COVID in the middle of the winter and interior Alaska, if you're still motivated, that's something special.”