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USCENTAF commander visits Airmen at Camp Lemonier

by Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs


9/2/2007 - CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti (AFPN) -- The Air Force's role in the stand up of Africa Command and the Airmen's increased presence in support of the humanitarian mission in the Horn of Africa were key topics discussed by the Central Air Forces Commander at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Aug. 28. 

Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, also the Air Component Commander to U.S. Central Command, visited Camp Lemonier to speak with Airmen from the 449th Air Expeditionary Group and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa to learn more about the issues and concerns affecting them and to address their needs.

"I think like any joint organization, it's critical [to work with sister services] and the Air Force brings a unique blend of joint and combined operations into the command," North said. "Airmen provide a wealth of expertise in strategic, operational and tactical planning and execution, and you can see that here not only at CJTF-HOA but the expeditionary group that supports CJTF-HOA."

The general said that when he travels throughout the area of responsibility, he feels the Airmen here are so satisfied with the mission set they do, that he finds many either want to extend or want to come back again.

"Because they see the humanitarian efforts, they see the capability, they see the realistic progress in how they do their business," the general said. "It's a very satisfying feeling in the humanitarian and resource development piece that I believe our Airmen are very good at."

The general toured various Air Force work centers to include the 81st and 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadrons and the new living quarters of some Airmen before holding a commander's call at the Arrival Departure Air Control Group.

More than 100 Airmen attended the call where the general discussed issues concerning Airmen throughout the Air Force such as the new Airman Battle Uniform and the standup of AFRICOM and how it will affect the Air Force.

"I think all of our military and certainly the United State's requirements as AFRICOM stands up with its mission statement, objectives, roles, and missions, will require deliberate analysis both strategic, operational and tactical orchestration," North said. "The Air Force, as a component to AFRICOM, will ensure it meets the requirements of the combatant commander."

The general said that standing up a new unified command is going to present a lot of organizational deliberation, alignment and allocation of resources as well as some unique challenges to planning and conducting air operations in the Horn.

"Africa is huge. So the preponderance of movement throughout the AOR or African Command will fall on the Air Force to provide that capability," North said. "Africa does not have the infrastructure that a lot of the other continents have or the operating areas we're used to. So our tactical aircraft, C-130s, are ideally suited for landing on airfields that are not quite as improved as some others. Our aviators are used to landing on dirt or unimproved strips. The other challenge of course is the air structure is not as developed as in other countries, and so a lot of navigation is really basic navigation. It will allow us to present our aviators a back-to-basics approach in how to get into unimproved fields and meet the requirements of the joint forces commander."

North said since the Air Force relies on global positioning satellites and GPS inertial systems, it is in the best interest of the aviators - the pilots, navigators, loadmasters and those rotary wing (other services) -- to be able to exercise basic aviation skills.

"Flight safety, discipline, coordination and integration and really the tyranny of dissonance particularly in the Horn of Africa and Africa at large as we do our business, is important because we'll send people downrange to another country and they're on their own until they return," he said.

Airmen also voiced their concerns about the change in the Air Expeditionary Force cycle and how it will affect their families.

"Because the Army is doing 15 months and the Marines are doing seven months, the Air Force is going to keep its cycle the way it is," North said. "There are 25,000 Airmen in the AOR today. The majority of those will continue on the 120-day AEF cycle. However, we do have a lot of in-lieu-of taskings; about 5,300 throughout the AOR, some of those are for 179, some are for a year."

The general said the Air Force is tasked to fill a large portion of joint billets, and CJTF-HOA is one of them. There are also some at Multi-National Forces Iraq on the core staff and Afghanistan at I-staff. He said a lot of those billets are 365-day billets but the majority of Airmen will continue to stay in the 120-day AEF cycle.

"The senior leadership of the Air Force thinks that's a good solution that allows us to organize, train and equip back home and then present forces forward to the combatant commander and joint forces commander, Admiral Fallon," the general added.

Before departing, the general stressed the importance of safety once Airmen return home from their rotation and how they fit in America's fight against terrorism.

"Our Airmen do fabulous work every day and whether you're here for 179, 120 or a year, Airmen -- America's Airmen -- enable, facilitate, synchronize and integrate tremendous capability from the surface through space, and we couldn't be prouder of our Airmen and the mission they're doing," North said. "America's Air Force will get tasked to lead every war that we will ever fight. That's why we have stealth aircraft. That's why we have incredible range payload in our business. That's why we're developing and building the F-22. That's why we need the new bomber and that's why the F-35 will be the biggest program in Department of Defense's history. It's why we need to present range and payload in an environment where our Airmen who are flying those aircraft and Airmen who support them know that we have an unfair advantage. Frankly, our unfair advantage is you. Because you are credible and capable and better than any other Air Force in the world and everyone wants to be like you. Thanks for what you do and thanks for your leadership." 



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