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Florida Senator Bill Nelson tours Tyndall

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Linda E. Welz
  • 1st Air Force (AFNORTH)
Florida Senator Bill Nelson visited Tyndall AFB  August 9, 2007, during one of his scheduled stops on a Florida panhandle tour. The senator was greeted at the 601st Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) by 1st Air Force Commander, Major Gen. Hank Morrow, and the 601st AOC Commander, Colonel David Kriner.

While meeting with Maj. Gen. Morrow, the senator received an update on the 1st Air Force mission. The briefing included the newest mission, Joint Task Force Shuttle, which the senator is familiar with, as he was a crewmember on the twenty-fourth flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia, January 12-18, 1986.

"It's important for our elected officials to visit our operations to better understand the importance of inter-agency cooperation between military and civilian authorities. Through greater understanding, they will be able to explain to their constituents the importance of our mission," said Maj. Gen. Morrow.

As Senator Nelson toured "America's AOC," Col. Kriner explained the important role the 601st AOC's mission plays in homeland security and support of civil authorities.

"The AOC monitors all of the air traffic in the Continental United States and provides operational command and control to the warfighters and other assets in the field ensuring our air sovereignty. As you can see by the 9-11 and Katrina pictures on the walls, in addition to ensuring our skies are safe, we're ready to answer the nation's call during disasters," said Col. Kriner

Senator Nelson had visited the old AOC where he said everybody was cramped and had to communicate with each other by shouting.

"This new AOC is state-of-the-art, all electronics, and this is what we need for somebody like General Morrow all the way up to the President to have to make a decision about defense of the homeland," said Senator Nelson.

The senator's base tour also included mission briefings from the 325th Fighter Wing, 43rd Fighter Squadron, and a tour of the F-22 Raptor.

"We were honored to show him around base and let him get up close and personal with our F-22 Raptors," said Colonel John Bird, 325th Fighter Wing vice commander.

Tyndall is the only F-22 Raptor training base. Initially, four top-notch basic course students will be selected to complete the Raptor training program. This aircraft only has one seat, so when the students finally make their first flight, they will do so solo. 

"The Senator was informed that the Raptor training program will incorporate our basic course students in the Spring; this is big transition, for us, away from training only seasoned pilots," said Col. Bird.

Prior to his departure from the base, Senator Nelson said that "the whole apparatus (of air defense) that uses some active duty, some Reserves, but mostly Air National Guard for protecting this country is done very well, and all of that reports right here to General Morrow at Tyndall Air Force Base, in Panama City, Bay County, Florida."