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COMACC tours 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern)

  • Published
  • By Mary McHale
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, expressed gratitude to the men and women of 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) and discussed the past, present and future of the Air Force during a visit to Tyndall Feb. 2-3.

"I can't say thank you enough and you can't hear it enough," he told a group of Airmen and civilians during a stop at the 601st Air Operations Center. "You have the most important no-fail mission in the country, defense of the Homeland, and you perform it in such a seamless way, you make it look easy, and we know it's anything but."

The general also praised the professionals of 1st AF (AFNORTH) for their performance in support of the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission.

"Whether its hurricanes, wildfires or floods, your contingency response skills are flawlessly executed, ensuring the safety and care of all who are affected," Carlisle said.

The ACC commander, otherwise known as COMACC, also toured the Killey Center for Homeland Operations, met with the organization's directors and received a mission briefing from Lt. Gen. William Etter, the Continental U.S. NORAD Region - 1st AF (AFNORTH) commander.

"General Carlisle was impressed by the commitment we bring to our mission sets and by the professionals who execute them so superbly," Etter said. "Everyone in the organization showed themselves to be the exemplary performers they are on a daily basis, and I thought it was a very successful visit."

Carlisle later shared his appreciation for the Air Force and those who serve with a broader audience during an all call at Horizons Community Center.

"How great it is to be here," Carlisle said. "I am honored to be in your Air Force with you because what you do for our nation matters.  You make a difference every day and you are why I've stayed this long."

Carlisle took command of ACC in October 2014. A 1978 Air Force Academy graduate, he is a command pilot with more than 3,600 flight hours. When he spoke of present-day ACC as the largest command in the Air Force, he leaned on legacies of the past to describe how they shaped today's force.

"I like history and heritage and think it's important to remember where we came from, what the feats of pioneers like Jimmy Doolittle and Billy Mitchell mean to our present force," he said. "We are direct descendants of them; that's why we are the greatest Air Force in the world."

The general also mentioned latter-day pioneers like Gen. Bernard Schriever, who was instrumental in developing the Minuteman missile system and Col. John Boyd, who created the "OODA" loop - observe, orient, decide and act - a tool that enabled pilots to fight better because they could make critical decisions faster. While Carlisle called Boyd a rebel, it was a well-earned reputation for an officer who - according to his biography - was known to literally poke superiors in the chest to make his point about airpower strategy.

From the past to the present, Carlisle addressed the current challenges facing the force and reached out to the audience to extract their expertise.

"The reality is we have more mission requirements than we have money, manpower and time," he said. "Every commander knows that's where we are and that we have to set priorities and understand some things are not going to get done, doing more with less is gone."

He called on the audience to share their day-to-day mission-accomplishment knowledge, to find ways to do tasks better as the manpower, money and time environment becomes more austere.

"We are a force of innovation fueled by incredible Airmen," he said. "You know how to do it better, and it's not all big stuff. Just give us your inputs and if it works, we'll figure out how to make it happen, be it a change to a regulation, rule or law."

Following these remarks, the general turned a frank focus on what he termed "the uncomfortable conversation" about suicide and sexual assault in the Air Force.

"If we are going to fix these problems, we have to have the conversation and it's going to take all of us to help those who have challenges," Carlisle said. "Everyone is going to have challenges, but it's what you can do ahead of time to prepare for those challenges - be they yours or another's - that can make the difference."

The general advised everyone to remain engaged, observant and reliant on each other.

"From the inception of the Air Force, our ethos has been based on mutual support, watching each other's backs," Carlisle said. "It's reflected in our daily operations, from the maintainer who ensures the pilot has a safe aircraft to fly to the intelligence specialist who ensures the right target. I'm asking you to be part of the solution - be present, get to know your people and don't let bad things happen."