Sixty-Three, and Still Flexible

By Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV, U.S. Army, Commanding General of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan

On the 63rd birthday of the Air Force as an independent service, I am reminded of one word – flexibility.  The Airmen serving in Afghanistan as a part of the NATO Training Mission prove this concept.  Air Force personnel are providing a critical capability for their Afghan partners– performing administration for the Coalition and Joint force, being advisors to the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and being instructors for English, airframe maintenance, and flight operations.

The efforts and impacts of this incredible service by our Airmen have created dividends that can be seen not only inside Afghanistan, but throughout the region as well.  As adverse weather caused the rivers to rise, flooding Southern Afghanistan, it was the Afghan Air Force that provided search and rescue and humanitarian support.  When the waters rose in Pakistan to kill thousands and displace millions, the Afghan Air Force sent four helicopters to support their brothers and sisters to the East.  Completely independent of Coalition personnel, they planned and executed 377 sorties, transported 1,904 passengers to safety, rescued 120 flood victims, and transported 188.5 tons of relief supplies.  All together, their support saved thousands of lives, feeding 200,000 families for a week. NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan Change of Command Ceremony
As professional and dedicated professionals, our Airmen are serving as an example for leadership and mission accomplishment.  These efforts show that the U.S. Air Force is more than merely about traditional air power.  This evolution was identified by the father of the modern Air Force, General Billy Mitchell, 86 years ago.  He said that “In the development of air power, one has to look ahead and not backward and figure out what is going to happen, not too much of what has happened.”  The future that we see today in Afghanistan is the development of the Afghan National Security Force.  Only when they are a professional force that can serve and protect the Afghan people will our mission be accomplished. 

The tip of the spear in this effort are trainers like those Airmen developing the Afghan Air Force – as the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said recently, “no trainers, no transition.”  Our Airmen are critical to this effort, adding to the distinguished history of their Service.  This is truly the mission of our generation, and the Airmen of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan are rising to the occasion.  Happy Birthday Air Force, and well done.

PHOTO: Brig. Gen. David W. Allvin, Commanding General, Incoming Commander, NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan, left; Brig. Gen. Michael Boera, Outgoing Commander, NATO Air Training
Command-Afghanistan; Lt. Gen. Gilmary Hostage, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command; and Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, Commanding General, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan Change of Command Ceremony, Sep 7, 2010, US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Quillen.