EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- U.S. Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, PACAF command chief, and their spouses visited Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Feb. 18-19, 2021.
The purpose of the visit was to give PACAF leaders the opportunity to get an in-depth look at the 354th Fighter Wing and the 168th Wing’s day-to-day missions, and to meet with the members of Team Eielson.
During the visit the leaders consistently emphasized Eielson’s role in the PACAF strategic vision and the Department of Defense Arctic strategy.
“I know everybody's heard it before, but back in the early 1900s, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell said, ‘Whoever controls Alaska controls the world,’ and he understood back then and we know it even more today,” said Wilsbach.
The general and the chief pointed to Eielson as a crucial piece to the development of the Air Force Arctic strategy which was announced in July 2020.
Wilsbach said that while PACAF headquarters is in Hawaii more than 3,000 miles away, their minds are constantly on Alaska because of its strategic location and what Eielson brings to the fight.
In the last year and a half, the 354th Fighter Wing reactivated two F-35A fighter squadrons and received more than two dozen fifth-generation fighters. The wing is slated to receive all 54 aircraft by the end of the year.
“We must do agile combat employment because if we don't, we will be very vulnerable to losing the fight, especially if we have to fight China,” said Wilsbach. “As we go forward [with] building up the F-35 capability here, we're [also] taking advantage of the strategic location that Alaska and Eielson provides us.”
On the other side of the installation, PACAF key spouses Cindy Wilsbach and Dr. Doniel Wolfe focused on the issues affecting the Airmen, their families and their quality-of-life. To get an accurate picture of what life is like for Team Eielson, Wilsbach and Wolfe spoke with local key spouses, met with base health care providers, and toured support facilities like the Child Development Center and base housing.
The general and chief commended Team Eielson for their perseverance and dedication to the mission in spite of COVID-19.
“Incredible progress has been made with bringing [Eielson’s] new capability up to speed. It's kind of staggering to see the amount of new refurbished capability,” said Wolfe. “To see more people not only get the opportunity to do this mission but to be able to come to a great state like Alaska and live the Alaska lifestyle is pretty amazing.”
Referencing his time as 11th Air Force commander from 2016 to 2018, Wilsbach found joy in seeing plans that were once only visible on paper come to life.
“It is so exciting to see all the new construction that's happened on the base that in my mind used to be a PowerPoint slide or a piece of paper and now it's a real building,” he said. “The other thing that's really impressive is, everybody we talked to is extra fired up about being here. And in the age of COVID in the middle of the winter and interior Alaska, if you're still motivated, that's something special.”