EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, the newly appointed 11th Air Force commander, toured Eielson Air Force Base on Oct. 12 to visit the Iceman Team.
Wilsbach, who took command in August, learned more about the base, the Airmen stationed here, and Eielson’s mission.
“I’m responsible for the Air Force bases in Alaska, Hawaii and Guam,” said Wilsbach. “The advantage here in Alaska is that in an eight-hour flight from here we can easily move to just about anywhere in the northern hemisphere. So we can project power from the United States very quickly thanks to the location of Alaska. Because of this heavy responsibility, priorities then become making sure Airmen in those places are prepared to go at a moment’s notice. Here at Eielson, the 354th Fighter Wing plays a crucial role in this mindset.”
Wilsbach lived in Alaska on three separate occasions and has a large amount of experience in the Pacific behind him.
“Thirteen years of my career have been spent in the Pacific, so I understand our partners here and I understand the mission we have, which will certainly help me,” said Wilsbach. “The other big portion of my career was spent in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, so I’ve had a lot of wartime experience with executing combat operations both at the Air Force and joint level. From those two big chunks of my career, I’ve received a lot of experience which can help me guide us in the right direction to accomplish our mission.”
The 11th Air Force commander was briefed about Eielson’s unique missions and training advantages the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex presents for its allies.
“For the 11th Air Force mission, RED FLAG-Alaska plays an important role – a perfect example would be how on this particular RF-A, we have the Republic of Korea participating,” said Wilsbach. “What a great opportunity for them to come and train in the greatest airspace there is in the entire world. It’s a great opportunity to engage with other countries from all around the world to come here and get some of the best training available.”
During his visit, Wilsbach stressed the importance of being mission-ready at all times and especially during the winter. He also gave some advice to help Icemen through those difficult times.
“There are a few ways you can mitigate the cold and darkness, the first is being fit,” said Wilsbach. “Exercise clears the brain, but it’s not just about going to the gym; nutrition is a whole other aspect to this too.”
Along with fitness, Wilsbach encouraged having buddies to rely on, and keep you in check.
“In a place like Eielson, where you are somewhat remote, it’s important that whatever you enjoy doing, you have friends you can enjoy those activities with. Really, it’s an extension of the wingman philosophy we have in the Air Force.”
Wilsbach added community does not have to be limited to the base, and if you get outside the installation you can meet some good people.
“A lot of places you get stationed, you’ll receive support from the local community and you encounter this mentality in Alaska,” said Wilsbach. “You also have a community which not only expresses this sentiment, but also reaches into the base and asks you to come downtown and be part of their family. It’s a very close-knit community, but it’s not confined to base; it goes far outside of the gates.”