The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff descended upon the nation’s most active air base last week to get a first-hand experience of the capabilities of Gulf Coast airmen and the dynamism of America’s air commandos.
During his first visit as Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein started his visit with an AC-130U Spooky gunship flight, demonstrating the raw firepower of what some refer to as the flying canon.
“It was actually the first time I saw a gunship crew in action, how the aircraft is configured and just what combat capability that weapon system can bring,” Goldfein said. “It was spectacular.”
On board the Spooky gunship, the general flew alongside a gunner that had seen more than 4,000 combat hours and served more than 20 deployments.
“This is one thing that worries me,” Goldfein said. “This Air Commando is on a one-to-one deploy-to-dwell ratio with three children at home. I asked him how this was going for him and his family [because] at some point that [pattern] becomes unsustainable.”
“We need to set a pace that our Airmen and families can sustain over time,” Goldfein added.
The following morning, Goldfein was the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony and unveiled the first-ever Special Tactics memorial to more than 800 people in attendance.
“It was one of the most moving ceremonies that I have ever been a part of,” Goldfein said. “There was a feeling in that crowd that was more important than any of the words spoken. When we unveiled that statue it was a powerful moment. I will never forget it; I’m honored to have been a part of it.”
The seven-foot bronze statue of a Special Tactics Airman in operational gear is a memorial to past, present and future operators. Two pedestals will flank the statue with the names of 19 Special Tactics Airmen killed in action and eight in training.
Later, Goldfein heard firsthand from Special Operations Air Component commanders currently deployed in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility during a secure video teleconference.
Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, and senior staff discussed with the chief of staff exactly how the command is maintaining readiness today and will ensure relevance in the future – through the professionalism of 19,000 airmen stationed at Hurlburt and throughout the command.
“The resiliency with which not only the Airmen, but their families, have approached this conflict has been nothing short of inspiring,” Goldfein said. “AFSOC is leading the way for how the U.S. military is handling the invisible wounds of war and resiliency of our families.”
While the chief of staff’s visit largely focused on the Airmen of AFSOC, he also took time to discuss the success of programs within the command.
“I believe the Preservation of the Force and Family program is the secret sauce for enhancing our performance,” he said. “I’m looking really hard at what’s going on at AFSOC to see what we can apply across the Air Force when it comes to improving resiliency and enhancing human performance.”
In addition to speaking at the Special Tactics memorial dedication and meeting with AFSOC leadership, Goldfein was also the guest speaker during the command-hosted Enlisted Board of Directors’ session.
The chief of staff spent several hours in a command and control immersion with Air Combat Command’s 505th Command and Control Wing, a partner unit on Hurlburt Field. Goldfein engaged with wing leaders on critical topics such as multi-domain command and control, live virtual constructive training, and the future of Joint Task Forces.