AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein paid a visit to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Aug. 18, 2017.
To gain a better understanding of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and how deployed Airmen contribute to all five Air Force core missions, Wilson and Goldfein toured the base and interacted with Airmen one-on-one.
“This is my first opportunity to come into the region since being confirmed as Secretary of the Air Force, and it’s to get out and see what Airmen are doing in bringing the fight to the enemy,” said Wilson. “It’s also to let Airmen know how much we care about what they’re doing and to listen to them to make sure that they’re getting what they need from us.”
Wilson and Goldfein emphasized the important role Airmen play in the overall U.S. Central Command mission.
“This is the most diverse wing that we have in the entire Middle East, and in some ways you could say in the entire United States Air Force,” said Goldfein. “We don’t have another wing that’s got such a diverse portfolio of missions all in one location. There’s not many missions that we’re performing that this wing doesn’t contribute to.”
Not only did they discuss the mission of the 380th AEW and the contributions of individual Airmen to the fight against ISIS, but Wilson and Goldfein also discussed the direction and growth of the Air Force overall.
In order to make the Air Force stronger, Air Force priorities had to shift slightly, said Wilson. But in so doing, senior leadership depends even more upon Airmen to give honest and straightforward feedback.
“One of the jobs that the Chief and I have is to tell the Air Force story, to try to get people- particularly in Washington, which is kind of our AOR- to support what we’re trying to do,” said Wilson. “It’s so helpful to get out where Airmen are and to go back and be able to say… ‘Let me tell you about a squadron at Al Dhafra and what they told me last month.’ Then it’s much more powerful.”
While both Wilson and Goldfein addressed the direction and growth of the Air Force overall, they also discussed the successes Airmen have accomplished thus far in the fight against ISIS.
One of the most important takeaways they hoped Airmen had from their visit is the support they have from their senior leadership.
“The Secretary and I are squinting with our ears,” said Goldfein. “We’re listening to Airmen and taking good notes and making sure that we’re going back armed to take on those things that we have to do to make it better.”
Wilson also emphasized that while the mission would not be possible without Airmen, those Airmen would not be able to execute the mission without their support systems back home.
“While we’re deeply grateful for our Airmen, we’re also really grateful for their families,” said Wilson. “As hard as it is to deploy, it’s even harder to be the family that’s at home keeping everything going. Airmen can’t do this without the support of families, and we deeply appreciate that support.”
Wilson and Goldfein made a point to recognize and coin some Airmen who made extraordinary contributions to the fight, but they also thanked each Airman they encountered for their ongoing efforts and selfless service. This wasn’t just a routine visit, said Wilson; it was personal.
“It’s a real joy to get out and talk to Airmen about their lives and their dreams, their jobs, why they do what they do, where they come from, and just to learn more about them,” said Wilson. “I never cease to be inspired.”