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Transforming the Vision Into Reality

Transforming the Vision Into Reality

Remarks for the activation of the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 30, 2002 by Dr. James G. Roche, Secretary of the Air Force.

Good morning and welcome. I am thrilled to be here to share in this historic event. Today we take a significant leap forward in aligning our Air Force for the strategic environment of the 21st century. We celebrate a significant improvement in the combat capability of two vitally important weapons systems, and we once again demonstrate that the airmen who have sworn to fight and win America’s wars are not defined by the patch on their pockets but by their warfighting spirit and commitment to our mission, our people and excellence. Today, with the blending of two wings into one, and the activation of the 116th Air Control Wing, our total force of active, Guard and civilian "airmen" deliver on our promise to America … to defend the United States and to protect its interests through air and space power.

I’m joined on the stage today by Congressional, industry and military leaders whose collective vision and commitment to innovation transformed a bold idea into what we expect will be a brilliant reality. Throughout this process, their commitment to teamwork made the difference between success and failure.

The Adjutant General of Georgia, Maj. Gen. David Poythress, is a life-long military officer in the active, Reserve and Guard. He knew that the Georgia Guard and the airmen of Robins – active and Guard – could make this happen and that they would do it with professionalism and class. I think you’ll agree with me as we survey the landscape before us, he’s succeeded in delivering on his promise.

Congressman Saxby Chambliss and Congressman Mac Collins, your continued and unfailing support for this important initiative was invaluable and further cements your commitment to help us organize, train and equip the world’s greatest Air Force. Thank you for all you do for the men and women of our armed forces. (U.S.) Sen. Max Cleland wanted to be here but couldn’t because he was held back for important congressional meetings regarding Iraq.

Alan Dozier and David Spong from our industry partners at Northrop Grumman and Boeing. Through the efforts of the North Grumman team – and truth in advertising compels me to say that I was not so long ago part of the team – they just delivered the 10th consecutive Joint STARS (E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) aircraft ahead of schedule. Joint STARS has proven its value as a ground surveillance and battle management system for over a decade, and it gets better and better over time. To those who deliver the tools of air and space power, we thank you.

The military leaders here today represent all the men and women in the Pentagon, the Air National Guard Bureau, Air Combat Command and the 8th and 9th Air Forces who worked so diligently to bring this vision to life. Lt. Gen. (Bruce A.) Wright (vice commander, Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force, Va.) and Brig. Gen. (David A.) Brubaker (deputy director, Air National Guard, Arlington, Va.), we thank you and salute you for your leadership and the commitment of your commanders, Gen. Hal M. Hornburg (commander, Air Combat Command) and (Lt. Gen.) Daniel James III (director, Air National Guard), to this worthy effort.

There’s another person who isn’t sitting up here today, but probably should be … retired Maj. Gen. Paul Weaver (former director, Air National Guard). He was part of the original idea, and he worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this endeavor. His counsel to (Air Force Chief of Staff) Gen. (John) Jumper and me has been consistently on target. Thanks Paul for making this day possible.

Finally, I want to recognize the two officers whose teamwork, diligence and cooperation set the standard for building the blended wing – Cols. David Fadok and Tom Lynn. They have set the example and, through their actions, have demonstrated the seamless nature of our total force. Through countless challenges, they worked as a team to identify solutions and overcome obstacles. More important, their example of partnership and cooperation has filtered down to the groups, squadrons, flights and shops where the day-to-day teamwork has and will remain critical to completing the establishment of this blended wing. That’s great leadership and is indicative of the environment of trust and professionalism found in these great wings. I should note, you and the airmen of the 93rd and the 116th accomplished in five months what was originally planned to take two years. Gentlemen, I salute you for all you have done, and for all you and your people will do in the months and years ahead.

The events of the past year have presented our nation and our Air Force with tremendous new challenges. We are now engaged in a global war with an elusive and resilient enemy who does not employ traditional means of warfare. These new realities underscore the absolute necessity to transform our air and space capabilities as well as the way we think about and employ forces. As we adapt to this new security environment, we must remain innovative in our approaches to procurement, warfighting concepts and how we organize to fight. Ultimately, the needs of this new era have brought us here today, to this time and this place in history.

As airmen, we all must understand that "transformation" is not a term; it is a philosophy -- a predisposition to exploring adaptations of existing and new systems, doctrines and organizations. It has been part of the total Air Force for decades. Transformation is not outlining new programs or things to buy. Rather, it is an approach to developing capabilities and exploring new concepts of operation that allow us to be truly relevant in the era in which we find ourselves, and for years to come.

Today we exhibit the innovation and creativity of our Air Force. The activation of the 116th Air Control Wing is a tangible and real example of transformation. It’s a wonderful example of how we can improve our capability without jeopardizing readiness or the warfighting effects we deliver to combatant commanders and our joint forces.

We decided to pursue this endeavor just over a year ago -- a decision I might add that would have a profound effect on each of you standing before me today. Our plan was clear: consolidate the B-1 Lancer bomber force and apply the savings realized to B-1 maintenance and modifications. We did this to improve its survivability and combat capability. The payoff is tremendous. By retiring 32 aircraft, we saved more than $1.3 billion, and here’s the important part: the savings will be reinvested in the B-1 bomber, not to pay another bill or fund another program. We’ll upgrade the aircraft’s defensive systems and avionics and integrate a new family of weapons, including the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. We’ve increased its lethality for the warfighters while improving the survivability of the aircraft, making the B-1 a formidable system for future conflicts. The consolidation will give us a fleet that is fully funded and combat-capable for the next 20 to 30 years. This is exactly the kind of innovation -- the kind of transformation -- we need to adjust properly to this new era.

This was a significant and emotional decision for those of you who were operating our B-1s. We recognized however, that a tremendous opportunity had been placed at our door. An opportunity existed to take a revolutionary leap forward in our development of our future total force by dramatically increasing the talent available to operate, maintain and support the Joint STARS system.

In the Air Force, we firmly believe that one of the great advantages we bring to the joint team stems from the flexibility of our force. The synergy of our fully integrated active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve team provides warfighters with capabilities that would be difficult to impossible for these components to provide alone. From the Gulf War to the Global War on Terror, we’ve demonstrated this over and over. Our (air) reserve component accounts for more than 65 percent of our tactical airlift, 35 percent of our strategic airlift capability, 60 percent of our air refueling, and possesses over a third of our strike fighters. The ARC also makes significant contributions to our rescue and support missions, and has an increasing presence in space, intelligence and information operations. In the Air Force, the air reserve component is on the first string, and for decades to come will remain critical to achieving the full potential of American air and space power.

With this blending of two into one, we move toward an even closer partnership among the components, and we further deliver on our vision to build a future total force. We deliver more seamless integration of our people and systems. We deliver efficiencies previously thought unattainable. We leverage the individual strengths of the active and Guard by combining operations into new organizational structures. This allows us to improve continuity by adding a stable, semi-permanent workforce to our rotating active force, and we deliver more interactive and flexible career patterns for our active and Guard leaders.

With this historic move, our new 116th Air Control Wing will consist of operations, maintenance, support and medical units that will blend to such a degree, whether you are active or Guard will be invisible to outside observers. While many in the Pentagon and throughout the Department of Defense struggle to define what transformation is, I can tell you what it is -- it’s you, it’s here, it’s now. It’s happening today here, at Robins Air Force Base. In the future, when other bases and other wings implement a future total force initiative, those who follow will measure their success against the "Robins model," and the vision John Jumper and I share for our Air Force definitely includes more blended wings!

There’s no better place in the Department of Defense or the Air Force to make this bold new step. The men and women of the 116th Bomb Wing and the 93rd Air Control Wing have demonstrated their flexibility, competence, innovation and perseverance for many years.

The 116th has a long, proud heritage. From World War II to today, you’ve demonstrated your mettle in combat and have earned honors for your conspicuous and repeated display of dedication and excellence. Moreover, over the years, we would be hard pressed to find another unit in the Air Force that has undergone more mission changes than you. Since your transfer to the Georgia National Guard 56 years ago, the 116th has changed missions and unit designation six times. This will be number seven. But every time, whether a fighter wing, interceptor wing, transport wing or bomb wing, you’ve proudly represented the State of Georgia while serving the United States of America. As an air control wing, I’m absolutely confident you’ll deliver the same first-class results in the years ahead.

The men and women of the 93rd and the Joint STARS program have an equally distinguished record of service – and not surprisingly – an equally distinguished history of innovation and flexibility.

We deployed the prototype model of the Joint STARS in 1991 to participate in Operation Desert Storm. The system was still in development. The team operating the system accumulated an impressive combat record, accurately tracking Iraqi tanks and other vehicles -- and that was just the beginning. We called on the Joint STARS to support Operation Joint Endeavor in 1995 and 1996, monitoring compliance with the Dayton Peace Accords. In 1999, JSTARS accumulated more than 1,000 flight hours and an impressive combat reputation during Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. Most recently, the wing performed magnificently in the war on terror during Operation Enduring Freedom. Your record of mission success is something for which you should all be especially proud.

Today, we take these two very distinguished legacies and combine them into the first unit of its kind -- and we’re not going to make it easy on you. You’ll fly one of the most heavily tasked systems in the Air Force. We’ll challenge you to produce mission ready crews and maintenance teams that are ready for the rigors and stress of war, and we’ll do what we’ve never done before -- mix active and Guard troops under a blended command structure as well, all the time ensuring, by the way, that we adhere to the U.S. Constitution!

Despite these challenges, I’m convinced the men and women of these two great wings will come together and make it happen. Your heritage, your professionalism and your incredible ability to adapt -- proven time and again - - and the outstanding support of the people of this community will guarantee our success.

Inf a few moments, when we deactivate these two wings and then stand up the 116th Air Control Wing, our first blended wing, I ask you all to reflect on the words of Machiavelli: "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

You are taking on something entirely new … a new way of organizing, training and operating. In doing so, you blaze a trail for others to follow. You are leading the Air Force -- and our total force -- into the 21st century. With this landmark activation, we continue the process of creating a force prepared to take on the challenges of the future while preserving the heritage and legacy of our distinguished past.

I want to salute again the men and women of these two great wings, the wonderful Robins community, those at the Guard Bureau, and our national and state leaders for having the courage to transform this vision into a reality. Thank you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).