To the Airmen, warriors and leaders of Eielson AFB
By Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, 354th Fighter Wing commander
/ Published July 16, 2012
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Thank you for the warm welcome to the 354th Fighter Wing. Tanya and I already feel at home here. Having spent the past several years at Pacific Command and Pacific Air Forces Headquarters, I've watched the Iceman Team's performance and accomplishments from afar and now get to meet and work with the Airmen who lead this great wing. Your accomplishments are even more noteworthy considering the budget, resource and personnel challenges our Air Force is working through.
During this time, like you, I've also watched our National Security Strategy begin a "Pivot to the Pacific." Much of this strategy, and the impacts to our Air Force, are still a "work in progress." However, some basic tenets are important for all Airmen - and especially important for the Iceman Team here.
With a stated U.S. security strategy to "pivot" and "rebalance to the Pacific," the readiness of PACAF units and partnerships with Pacific nations moves to the forefront of national efforts. RED FLAG-Alaska and Distant Frontier play a key role in PACAF unit readiness as well as the capacity and partnership building efforts of our nation. For many of these PACAF units and partner nations, these exercises are the pinnacle event of their training regimen. No other location offers the airspace, range space, professional exercise construct and professional adversary support of RF-A. Additionally, Eielson and the Fairbanks/North Star Borough area are renowned for their hospitality and ability to host visiting units. Thank you for being the face of our Air Force and professional hosts to U.S. units and our Pacific partners.
However, a "Pivot to the Pacific" means other things for our Nation and Air Force. When you pivot to the Pacific, you pivot to contested waters, real estate and airspace. You migrate toward advanced air defenses and rapidly improving strategic competitors - this is a tough neighborhood. Besides the essential need for reliable allies and partners, air forces need to train to a robust electromagnetic jamming environment where key sensors face certain degradation. Allied Airmen need to learn to integrate with 5th generation platforms which are essential to access this region. They need to understand the capabilities of threat systems and how they are employed in an integrated defense network. They need to learn to habitually integrate with our air tankers which are the key operations enablers and absolutely indispensable for combat employment over vast distances. These air forces need to face the speed of modern tactical training before they're faced with the speed of actual modern warfare. In short, our national strategy, and our pacific allies, needs the training that only RF-A and the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex can provide.
These dynamics are part of what makes our base and our mission so relevant. More importantly, these dynamics are part of what make our Airmen so important. I look forward to meeting and working with every single member of the Iceman Team in the coming days and weeks.
Thanks again for a warm welcome and for your service to our Air Force.