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AIRPOWER -- a team sport defined

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Anthony Rock
  • Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air
As I look back on my first two weeks as the wing commander and Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission--Air director I have to say as proud as I was to join the team, I become even more proud as I truly start to grasp the breadth and depth of what we, as an Air Force, do every day. It is ironic that my only other involvement in Iraq was flying Eagles with the 1st Fighter Wing during Operations Desert Shield and Storm from 1990 through1991.

It is ironic because my tasking as a young officer during that deployment was to help liberate Kuwait by fighting the Iraqi Air Force to gain and maintain air dominance. My tasking as a senior officer now is to lead a coalition team as we rebuild that same air force and establish an enduring strategic relationship with a new partner in a region where stability is critical to national security for us and many of our coalition partners around the world.

As I traveled on my first commander's airfield-circulation trip to Ali Base and met the outstanding Airmen working there, it suddenly dawned on me that there was even more irony to be discovered. Ali Base, then known as Tallil, was my first combat objective on a dawn strike on the very first day of Operation Desert Storm.

I was part of a wall of eight Eagles escorting Navy and Marine forces in an effort to ensure we gained air superiority as the SAMs at Tallil were taken out. As I landed at Ali in the current day, I reflected on the vast team effort that had taken place then in order to put me over that objective on day one of Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

Yes, I might have been on the tip of that spear where the bullet hits the bone, but a weapons Airman had loaded my jet with killing hot metal; a fuels Airman had fueled my jet; my crew chief had prepped the Eagle and launched me; an AWACS Air Battle Manager had gotten us to the pre-strike tanker; and, before that, a life supporter had maintained my flight gear; a services Airman had fed me the night before; a Security Forces Airman had defended our perimeter; our medics had worked to maintain the health of all folks involved; and hundreds of others, working as part of a team, had executed their part of the mission to create the awesome effects achieved that day.

This level of team effort was duplicated at dozens of locations and across our joint and coalition spectrum. I could go on for pages with examples of all the things it took to establish air dominance but I would run out of ink and you would run out of time to read about them all.

The point is that Airpower is an effect that is generated via a complex symphony of activity and no one part of the process is any more or less important than any other we execute - and succeed at- as a team. While some elements of the mission may be more visible than others, each and every one represents a critical path to success. If any one of us fails, we all fail because the mission fails.

So my message to all deployed Airmen is continue to take care of yourself and your wingman to stay focused during these dynamic and demanding times. We are a total force of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, civilians and international partners, all working on the same team. Treat every coalition and host nation partner with the respect you would expect to receive. I also ask you to give my regards and convey my thanks to the families you have left behind--they sacrifice so much in our absence, and they too are an integral part of the team. The deployments are much easier on us than on them because we plug into a surrogate family here and have the mission to drive us. Simply put, they too are part of the team, help generate the effect of Airpower, and are awesome force multipliers.

I am simultaneously humbled and proud to be part of the Air Force team and look forward to serving with you all as we each execute with precision and excellence every day to achieve overall mission success.

Ultimately it is our people who put the "power" in Airpower.

Remember, when you think no one is watching, I guarantee someone is staring--Every Airman a every level...