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CENTAF command chief addresses issues

by Master Sgt. Charles Ramey
444th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

04/08/03 - OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- As Air Force operations continue in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the service's senior enlisted member in Southwest Asia says the exact future of operations has yet to be determined.

"The war isn't over," said Chief Master Sgt. Mack Williams, U.S. Central Command Air Forces command chief master sergeant, during a visit to the 444th Air Expeditionary Group on April 6. "However, senior leaders are working hard developing post-war plans and deciding on tomorrow's deployed requirements. Regardless, we cannot afford to let our guard down and must continue to do what we do best -- project the world's best air and space power on and over the battlefield."

The chief, who has traveled throughout the region on behalf of Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces, said he is impressed with what he has seen.

"General Moseley and I are extremely proud of the quality and quantity of work by our Air Force, especially the work of our young airmen and those who train and supervise them," he said. "If anyone has ever had a doubt about our next generation of leaders, they should have an opportunity to spend a day in my boots. Most of our junior enlisted force was in elementary school during the Gulf War. But now, they are the combat enablers that are allowing our coalition air force to deliver global reach and global power."

As the Air Force's senior enlisted leader in the region, the chief fields questions on a variety of topics wherever he visits.

"I've been asked about everything from promotion testing to pay issues," said the chief. "As far as promotion testing, everyone is authorized 30 to 60 days to study upon his or her return. When it comes to pay, there have been articles in the recent press about increases in items such as imminent danger/hostile fire pay and family separation allowance. This is still in the works. If the supplemental appropriations bill including these items is passed by Congress and signed by the president, we will ensure the information gets out via our command and public affairs channels as quickly as possible.

"The biggest question I continue to get is 'when are we going home?'" Williams said. "The honest answer is 'I don't know.' We will try to decrease the footprint as soon as possible, but we will continue to support the frontlines until the job is done. When it's safe enough, some of us will move forward while others will return home. I can guarantee that our leadership will do their best to get our people home to families as quickly as the mission allows."

Whenever the mission does finish, the chief encourages everyone to focus on the home front.

"The support of our loved ones back home is just as important to our war effort as putting bombs on target," he said. "We wouldn't have been able to accomplish what we've done here without them taking care of the home front. This has been just as tough if not tougher on them, especially when they don't know exactly where their spouse, parent or child is. I hope everyone will remember their contributions, hug and thank them upon return, and utilize any time off for quality family time."

Williams also said another family nobody should soon forget is their Air Force family.

"Everyone has come here from many different bases and gelled into one cohesive team," he said. "We've all made a lot of new friendships and I hope people will continue to stay in contact throughout the rest of their careers and beyond.

"We've spent 12 years here and are finally getting to the bottom line in Iraq," said the chief, who has personally spent 19 of the last 24 months in the region. "We are making lives better; we are making history positive and everyone should be proud about what he or she continues to bring to the fight on a daily basis."

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