EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNS) --
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett toured Arctic locations and visited with Airmen from the 354th Fighter Wing and 168th Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, July 7-9.
While at Eielson AFB, Barrett got an in-depth look at the 353rd Combat Training Squadron and 18th Aggressor Squadron missions and their roles for Pacific Air Forces-sponsored exercise Red Flag-Alaska. She toured a portion of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which provides 77,000 square miles of airspace for pilots to train in during the exercise.
“The Total Force team at Eielson plays a pivotal role that extends throughout Alaska and projects into the Arctic,” Barrett said. “Today, as competitors like China and Russia endeavor to expand their influence, the U.S. relies on our Air and Space Forces to protect our nation.”
Eielson AFB’s strategic location combined with the F-35A Lightning II weapon system, ensures the fighter wing is ready to defend national security at a moment’s notice.
“Eielson’s recent accomplishments, ranging from its 100th F-35 sortie last month to hosting (B-52 Stratofortresses) a few weeks ago, are illustrative of how Eielson Airmen are securing our national interests and protecting the American way of life,” she said.
The Secretary focused her visit on exploring arctic capabilities found only at the Air Force’s northern-most fighter wing. These elements included arctic infrastructure, arctic survival school, arctic search and rescue, as well as training with arctic-partner nations.
“Airmen of Eielson Air Force Base possess an incredible wealth of knowledge when it comes to airpower operations in the arctic simply because that’s our reality for more than half the year,” said Col. Shawn Anger, 354th Fighter Wing commander. “Executing our mission in a strategic location, which also happens to be a challenging environment, requires our Airmen to operate at a higher level of readiness than anywhere else in the world. We take pride in knowing that not only can we survive at 50 degrees below zero, but we can launch jets in those conditions, too.”
Barrett also visited remote locations throughout Alaska like Clear Air Force Station, Utqiagvik and Kotzebue.
“Many are unaware of the important missions our Airmen and Space Professionals fulfill 24/7 with radar systems in places like Clear Air Force Station, Utqiagvik and Shemya,” Barrett said. “They are on the leading edge of defending North America with sophisticated air and space radar systems that detect intercontinental missile launches and monitor objects orbiting the earth. Their contributions are vital to our nation’s security.”
The significance of the missions performed by Airmen and Space Professionals in the Arctic was also emphasized by Lt. Gen. David Krumm, commander of Alaska NORAD Region, Alaska Command and 11th Air Force.
“Secretary Barrett’s visit to Alaska highlights the strategic importance of the Arctic. The Department of the Air Force maintains the majority of forces in the region, with fighters, tankers and surveillance aircraft, as well as systems and infrastructure to support our nation’s and allies interests while respecting the Alaska Native community and their environment,” Krumm said. “As human activity in the Arctic increases, the Air Force has shown that it is and will continue to be a leader in operating in this challenging and austere environment.”