COMPACAF visits Eielson

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zade Vadnais
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Pacific Air Forces command team along with their spouses visited Eielson to gain insight on present challenges and discuss future plans with personnel assigned here, Jan. 4-5. 

During the visit, Gen. Ken Wilsbach, PACAF commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Dave Wolfe, PACAF command chief, acknowledged the challenges faced by Icemen as the installation continues to grow and highlighted the growing strategic significance of Eielson within the Indo-Pacific region.

Specifically, Wilsbach emphasized the importance of the 354th Fighter Wing and the force of Multi-Capable Airmen, especially in terms of the Air Force’s agile combat employment strategies.  

“Billy Mitchell once said ‘whoever holds Alaska will hold the world,’” recounted Wilsbach. “What makes Alaska so important? An F-35 can depart Alaska and be in almost any major city in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.”

“Alaska is the most strategic place in the world,” agreed Wolfe. “Our folks here are front line players on the national security stage. With every jet that takes off, every RED FLAG-Alaska exercise, we’re building world class pilots and maintainers here. This is the epicenter of the fifth-generation world.”

The 354th Fighter Wing recently sent F-35 Lightning II fighter jets to various locations throughout Japan for training in support of Operation Iron Dagger, demonstrating PACAF’s ability to effectively execute the ACE model of operations. Wilsbach and Wolfe explained the importance of the ACE concept to future operations and how Icemen and their equipment would be utilized in a contingency situation.

“Every fighter wing needs to be ACE-capable simply because it’s a problem China can’t solve right now,” explained Wilsbach. “They don’t have enough munitions or the capability to deliver those munitions to as many places as we plan to operate from. If we were to get into a conflict with China, we would be able to continue to put pressure on them with our airpower and they wouldn't necessarily be able to stop it. We'll use ACE to do that.”

“The F-35s from Eielson and the tankers assigned to the 168th Air National Guard will be intimately involved if a fight ever comes,” said Wilsbach. “The F-35s getting in the air and creating effects will be extremely important for us to be able to win.”

ACE’s hub and spoke model is austere by design, and will require Multi-Capable Airmen who can effectively accomplish several separate but related tasks in order to be truly effective.

“Folks need to get used to the idea that we’re not going to go to a large, enduring location that has all the support to bed down a lot of people like we have in the past,” said Wolfe. “This is a ‘get there, get some weapons, get some gas, and get back off the ground quickly’ operation. That’s the idea of ACE, and it’s going to take a certain number of Multi-Capable Airmen to do that.”

The leaders used this visit to see first-hand the challenges faced by personnel assigned here as the installation continues to grow. Considering the recent non-concurrent travel mandate for incoming Eielson personnel with dependents, lack of housing was top of mind for many.

“We’re working with senators and the governor to see if we can get support from the state and federal governments to incentivize the construction of new homes in the area,” explained Wilsbach. “It's going to take some time.”

Wilsbach and Wolfe concluded the visit by thanking the Iceman Team for their support to the PACAF, Indo-Pacific Command, and Northern Command missions, stating they understand living in the interior of Alaska comes with unique challenges.

“Thanks to the men and women of Eielson for the service they provide our country, and that includes the families because we know the families are serving right alongside their military loved ones,” said Wilsbach. “The chief and I have had a great visit here; we’re all incredibly grateful for the opportunity to come and visit in the wintertime. We love it here and we will be back, but in the meantime thanks to all those who serve here because their service makes a difference.”