Sunday, January 23, 2011

Assistant Secretary of Air Force visits Baghdad

A senior Pentagon official said airmen deployed to Iraq in 2011 will play a historic role as U.S. military forces drawdown under the 2008 bilateral security agreement.

“This is a particularly important time in Iraq,” explained Daniel Ginsberg, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, during a visit to Baghdad Jan. 21. “The nature of our presence here is going to change fundamentally and airmen, like you all, are stepping up to make sure the mission gets done.”

Under Operation New Dawn, nearly 50,000 U.S. service members in Iraq continue to conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces. More than 1,000 U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing and Iraq Training and Advisory Mission – Air support OND from various locations throughout the country.

Assistant Secretary Ginberg, who is responsible for manpower, military and civilian personnel, Reserve component affairs, and readiness support, said airmen from all walks of life and service components have performed admirably after almost a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In just the past 12 months, ITAM-AF airmen doubled the size of trained Iraqi airmen and helped field more than 130 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft for the Iraqi Air Force.

“There are very few times in our nation’s history when all components – active, Reserve and Guard – have come together and performed at this level of efficiency over this length of time,” he told airmen while visiting Sather Air Base and surrounding bases in the Baghdad area Jan. 21 through 22. “We are a true total force.”

Air Force leaders decided last fall to extend standard active duty deployments from four to six months. Assistant Secretary Ginsberg said the decision has helped widen the gap between deployments for some “taxed” Airmen while capitalizing on their experience down range.

“The shift to 180-day deployments gives our airmen more time at home and it also provides deeper mission experience,” he said. “This way, airmen can operate at a higher level of intensity over a longer period of time.”

Despite what the assistant secretary called America’s “era of austerity,” he assured Air Force leadership’s commitment to take care of airmen as they continue to balance home life and commitments abroad.

“The Air Force has a commitment to provide for its people,” he said before touring some of Sather AB’s facilities Jan. 22. “There are certain values that define us as a service and what we do. We want to preserve that climate for our airmen.”

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