This is the daily blog from the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2009. Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff is blogging from the site.
The third and final day of the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exhibition started big. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech. Word was the secretary was going to make a big announcement. He received applause after he commented on KC-X, the next generation aerial refueling tanker.
“Finally, I am pleased to announce that source selection authority is returning to the Air Force for the KC-X refueling tanker,” Secretary Gates said. “I don’t need to belabor the importance of getting this done and done right, and my office will continue to have a robust oversight role. We are committed to the integrity of the selection process, and cannot afford the kind of letdowns, parochial squabbles, and corporate food-fights that have bedeviled this effort in the past.
“I have confidence that the KC-X selection authority is in good hands with the service’s leadership team of Secretary [Michael] Donley and General [Norton] Schwartz,” Secretary Gates added.
The secretary complimented the efforts of all Airmen during his address for their “achievements we cherish.”
“Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Airmen have gone about their duties – usually unheralded, and unrecognized by the usual metric of medals and media coverage,” the secretary said. “Often they are on the ground, in the dirt, and sometimes under fire – doing their jobs without fail and without complaint. More than 100 have made the supreme sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The secretary highlighted how Airmen who are supporting ground troops “have made a life or death difference.” To illustrate, Secretary Gates told the story of Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Horton, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“Sergeant Horton destroyed more than seven tons of enemy explosives while deployed to Iraq in the hair-raising vocation of [explosive ordnance disposal] technician,” Secretary Gates said. “His expertise with the tactics of enemy bombers led to the capture of six bomb makers in the Kirkuk region. In one instance, he pulled our injured soldiers from a vehicle after an [improvised explosive device] attack, and then cleared the extraction zone to medevac the wounded, earning a Bronze Star for his efforts.”
Today featured a lot of briefings by Air Force leaders. Thirteen Air Force generals sat down and held a four-star forum. Later in the day, Chief Master Sgt. James Roy gave a briefing. The story about Chief Roy’s briefing is still being written. Check back at www.af.mil to see what he had to say.
Picking up give-aways in the exhibition hall is one way to help pass the time between briefings. The other day I wrote about the “sticky brain.” The vendor today gave out mini lava lamps. An Air Force laboratory offered up pens in the shape of a giant chili pepper. One vendor had a big hit. They gave away protective rubber skins for a popular brand of smart phone that seems to be tethered to every officer. One lieutenant colonel said it was the best give away as she clicked away on another message. Now, that company really knows its audience.