Arctic Security Expedition: AF leaders visit Eielson, gain insight to U.S. Arctic ops Published Sept. 13, 2017 By Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and several major commands, including the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, General Ellen Pawlikowski, visited Eielson Air Force Base and other locations in Alaska during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept 8-9. The purpose of the expedition was to help leaders gain a better understanding of the unique capabilities as well as the challenges the fighter wing and other units face operating in the harsh Arctic climate. The information and knowledge gained will aid leaders as they explore options regarding the future strategy and investments relating to national security in the Arctic. The first stop on the expedition was at Eielson AFB where leaders spoke to Airmen with first-hand experience operating in the extreme environment of interior Alaska. They also received an update on the F-35 Lightning II beddown slated to begin in 2020. The 354 FW commander, Col. David Mineau, provided a mission brief and highlighted the wing’s role in the U.S. Arctic Defense Strategy. “Eielson Air Force Base is an absolutely critical piece of the U.S. Arctic Defense strategy. Our location in interior Alaska puts us in an advantageous position to respond to potential threats in this region and across the Northern Hemisphere”, he said. Mineau also shared his perspective on Arctic operations and the resources necessary to maintain the base infrastructure and sustain the mission. Alaskan Command commander, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach also spoke of the importance and strategic benefits of having U.S. forces in Alaska echoing Mineau’s sentiments. “Alaska is a strategic location. We have a number of forces in Alaska including those at JBER [Joint Base Elmandorf-Richardson] as well as Eielson and they are prepared to deploy if our nation’s leadership asks us to deploy. Within a matter of days we can get to the places in the Indo-Asia Pacific region where we might have conflict; that’s the main reason Alaska has the force posture that it does,” Wilsbach said. Senior leaders will continue the Arctic Security Expedition visiting locations in Greenland and Canada.