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PACAF commander: Unity is key in war on terrorism

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Taking care of Airmen and their families, the war on terrorism, modernizing the aging fleet, and the recent stand-up of the 13th Air Force Detachment at Yokota AB, Japan, were topics of interest for the commander of Pacific Air Forces during a visit to Kadena AB Feb. 1 to 3.

"Taking care of Airmen and their families is a high priority," Gen. Paul V. Hester said. "The Air Force does that, and we proudly think better than any other services that we retain good Airmen by taking care of their families."

The general said with Airmen being forward deployed to bases in the Pacific to include Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, Japan and Korea, PACAF is fully engaged in the war on terrorism.

"We send Airmen on missions that involve working with other countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Australia," the general said. "We are engaged at that level to build those military-to-military contacts and strengthen ties and bonds between our nations and the working relationship which enables us to pass information, them to pass information, techniques, procedures and tactics, which in turn, assists all of our nations in the war against terrorism."

Modernizing the Air Force's aging fleet with the modified C-17 Globemaster III and the release of the F-22 Raptor to bases throughout the Pacific will also help in the fight.

"With the recapitalization of our Air Force, officials at the Pentagon fight daily budget battles," General Hester said. "Those budget battles translate into equipment. One is the C-17, which we've already started getting at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. We will bed down another eight C-17s in Alaska this coming June. In August we will bed down our first F-22 squadron in Alaska, followed in 2008 by another F-22 squadron. The third of our three F-22 squadrons will beddown in 2010 and 2011 at Hickam AFB with the Hawaii Air National Guard. Also, in 2009 we will station seven to 10 Global Hawks (unmanned aerial vehicles) out there over the next five years."

The revitalization efforts don't just extend to equipment, but to the way the Air Force does business in space. The recent standup of the 13th Air Force detachment at Yokota AB is a testament to the way the Air Force uses space to support their missions.

"U.S. Space Command is revitalizing our ability to use space in a peaceful way, but also in a way that supports us in the air-breathing atmosphere to do the business of America," the general said. "Through global positioning satellites, communications satellites and satellites that use other censures as well, space is so very important to us in this vast area of responsibility.

"I think you will find that space helps us tremendously, especially if we keep our footprint forward to a manageable level and use what we affectionately refer to as reach-back," he said.

General Hester said the Air Force has been working toward transition by positioning forces seamlessly between peacetime, humanitarian and full-scale potential combat operations.

In the past, the Pacific has been known as the Navy's area of responsibility. However, the PACAF commander feels differently.

"This is an AOR that America focuses its power," General Hester said. "We are blessed to have a very strong deep- and shallow-water Navy that is out here to do business. As I tell my Navy friends every day, 75 percent of this AOR may be covered by water, but 100 percent of it is covered by air and space.

"So it takes a strong Navy, strong Air Force and strong military 'boots on the ground' services to be able to serve any AOR around the world where America puts young people to do its business," General Hester said. "Airpower provides us the flexibility and the ability to be omnipresent."

The U.S.-Japan Alliance allows not only Airmen, but also all U.S. servicemembers to maintain peace and stability throughout the region. The general said he sees a strengthening alliance with Japan with the Air Force as the centerpiece since the Japanese Air Defense Command will be moving onto Yokota AB soon.

"Since 1960, it has been the U.S.-Japan Alliance that has allowed the opportunity for Americans to come and stand in harm's way with our Japanese allies and defend this place," he said.

"In terms of how PACAF views this, certainly we have three strong bases in Japan -- from Misawa AB in the north, Yokota AB in the center and of course down here at Kadena AB," General Hester said. "Each one of those is key in our ability to not only do our business, but also to present that ability as a stabilization point and show our commitment to the Asian-Pacific region."