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Donley highlights Guard's contributions, emphasis on 'total force'

by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy
National Guard Bureau

9/14/2009 - NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AFNS) -- Sept. 11 was appropriate for the opening ceremony of the 131st National Guard Association of the United States conference, since the National Guard is the original defender of the homeland, the secretary of the Air Force said during his opening remarks.

"You were the first responders to defend America's skies," said Michael Donley, referring to the fact that Air National Guard fighters flew patrols over the Pentagon within minutes after the 9/11 attacks. "Americans live their lives without fear, because of the steadfast commitment and sacrifice of our citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen."

He thanked the Guardmembers and their families for not just their sacrifices, but also for balancing their jobs in the National Guard with a civilian career.

"It takes a special human being to be able to do this," Secretary Donley said. "We could not do our work without you. We have shared many successes, and we have spilled blood together."

The secretary said the success of the nation's military rests on keeping up with an uncertain enemy and an evolving conflict.

"Our success tomorrow depends on versatility-and this is exemplified by the National Guard," he said.

During a brief question and answer period, Secretary Donley addressed three key issues: recapitalization of the nation's aging fighter jets, the upcoming request for proposals from contractors who will build the next generation Air Force tanker aircraft and the emphasis by the Department of Defense on cyber warfare, which is typically an Air Force role.

DOD officials will focus on production of 1,763 F-35 Ligntning II joint strike fighters for both the U.S. Air Force and for nine countries around the world, he said, adding that this worldwide distribution of the fifth-generation fighter will mimic that of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Secretary Donley also said Air Force and DOD officials have put together a strong request for proposals for a new tanker, which they will submit to aircraft manufacturers sometime later this year.

"We are going to be fair, and we are going forward with this. Watch this space closely," he told the audience.

On the Air Force's cyber-warfare program, Secretary Donley said there may be a 'pause' in the forward progression to launch a fully operational division within the Air Force, but DOD officials understand the importance of this battle space.

However, members of the National Guard, both Army and Air Force with their real-world knowledge and experience, are integral to this fight, he said.

Secretary Donley told the audience he plans to discuss details of these topics and more at the Air Force Association's annual conference scheduled for Sept. 14 through 16 in Washington, D.C.


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