EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Col. Benjamin Bishop, 354th Fighter Wing commander, along with Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Hurt, 354th FW command chief, hosted two all-calls Jan. 2, 2020, to talk to Airmen about how the addition of F-35A Lightning II will change the culture of Eielson Air Force Base.
Bishop began with a look at what the Icemen team accomplished in 2019. The wing completed three large force exercises, increasing readiness across the U.S. Air Force and partner nations.
“This is how we operationalized our National Defense Strategy, by building a more lethal force, attracting new partners, and strengthening our alliances,” Bishop said. “2019 was phenomenal. It was an amazing year at the 354th Fighter Wing. We did a lot. You did a lot.”
After examining what the wing did in 2019, Bishop talked about the future of Eielson. He revealed that the wing will host four Red Flag-Alaska exercise as well as receive their first three F-35s in 2020.
Over the next two years, the base’s fleet is anticipated to grow from 30 aircraft to 84; nine KC-135 Stratotankers from the Alaska Air National Guard, 21 F-16 Fighting Falcons, and 54 F-35s.
“Our plate is getting bigger in 2020. Our size is going to increase significantly…what that means is our impact and our strategic significance is going to increase as well,” said Bishop. “In 2020, Eielson is going to change the world. We are going to change the calculus of the United States, but more importantly of our potential adversaries.”
Both Bishop and Hurt discussed increasing discipline and professional development in order to maintain combat readiness. To ensure that readiness, a base-wide recall was executed that morning.
“As a combat fighter wing commander, I am extremely defensive of anything that undermines our readiness, because we need to be able to focus on embracing the growth mindset,” Bishop said. “We need to be able to focus on the mission and taking care of each other.”
“You are our competitive advantage. We don’t need you to memorize Air Force Instructions, we need you to think,” said Hurt. “How are you growing? It’s hard to look good and grow at the same time.”
To conclude the all call, Bishop asked Icemen to reflect on their heritage and embrace the pioneering spirit of the Airmen that came before them.
“We have a heritage that we can draw upon. They were known as the pioneer mustang group - their motto was ‘Valor in Combat’,” said Bishop. “2020 is going to be a historic year for all of us, and you’re part of it. We need you on the team, I need you to be part of the conversation, and to be ready to lead.”