PACAF command team, spouses visit JBER

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Hailey Staker
  • 673d ABW Public Affairs

Some may shy away from visiting Alaska during the cold winter months, but the Pacific Air Forces command team along with their spouses visited Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson Jan 5-7 and expressed their enjoyment during the visit. 

U.S. Air Force Gen. Ken Wilsbach, PACAF commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Dave Wolfe, PACAF command chief, visited with Air Force personnel, met with local civic leaders and led an all-call for Airmen. 

During the team’s visit, Wilsbach and Wolfe emphasized how projecting power in the Arctic requires substantial resources, training and equipment to ensure mission success – one of many reasons the team visited the installation during the winter.

“It’s probably no secret the chief and I absolutely love Alaska, and it’s such a pleasure to come here any time of year,” Wilsbach said. “But we wanted to specifically come here in the winter because it’s a tough time of year.” 

Over the last few months, Team JBER has continued training and exercising Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concepts despite what has been described as an unusually cold winter. 

“ACE is my number-one priority for PACAF wings, because it creates a dilemma for our competitors,” Wilsbach said. “In the past, we were a service that would build up our forces on a few bases, and with the advent of ballistic and cruise missile technology, it’s pretty easy to take out the runway and taxiways.”

ACE allows the Air Force to disperse from larger airfields to many smaller sites for conducting operations. This makes targeting much more difficult for adversaries, and keeps pressure on them, said Wilsbach. 

“In the Arctic, we have a number of alternatives besides Eielson and [JBER] to help us disperse,” Wilsbach continued. “The other great advantage [of the Arctic] is, because of the size and alternatives in Alaska, the training environment for ACE is probably some of the best in this area of responsibility.” 

Wilsbach added the austere airfields across the vast Alaskan landscape help to provide a more realistic training environment and identify potential challenges such as communications and logistics.  

Additionally, Wilsbach and Wolfe focused on modernization within the force, specifically through innovation. 

“Every base visit we go to in PACAF, we get to meet with the innovation labs for two reasons,” Wolfe said. “One, we want to see what’s going on, so we ask for it, but more importantly the people who are doing the innovation out there, formally and informally throughout all of our wings, they are really excited about the opportunities they’re having now to get ideas forward that they didn’t have before.” 

Wolfe explained how, early on in his Air Force career ideas rarely made it to fruition.  Now, he believes there is a different culture which encourages innovation. 

“I think we’re just about there on making sure our folks have the opportunity to look at something that’s going on in their specialty and bring up different new and exciting ways to get the job done,” Wolfe said.

During the spouses visit, Cindy Wilsbach, PACAF First Lady, and Dr. Doniel Wolfe also met with Airmen working in the innovation lab. 

The PACAF spouses also had the opportunity to meet with senior spouses from JBER to discuss concerns and issues and present spouse volunteer awards. Though they made many stops on their three-day visit, notable immersions included the Alaska Fisher House and 673d Medical Group Below Zero program; military working dog and hush house demonstrations; and the Paws for Purple Hearts warrior therapy program.   

Lastly, leadership finished their visit with a base-wide all-call where Wilsbach and Wolfe discussed their vision and commitment to help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

“We are trying to deter the competitors in our region who have a different objective for this region,” Wilsbach said. “China has also communicated that they will use force to achieve those objectives, and the reason we need to project lethality is as a deterrent so that China sees if they’re going to use force, there very well could be force coming back at them that they haven’t prepared for.”

Wolfe added that 79 percent of the Department of Defense’s forces in the Arctic belong to the U.S. Air Force. 

“Through my observation over the last couple of days, the men and women of [JBER] have really started to push the envelope quite aggressively in the Arctic domain,” Wolfe said. “There could come a day where we would have to fight up here and we’ve got to be ready to do that.”

Wilsbach echoed Wolfe’s sentiment, thanking all who serve here. 

“We want to thank you for what you’re doing for our country, securing the Arctic and projecting power,” Wilsbach said. “We’re incredibly grateful for those who serve here and we’re so happy to be able to come, share and encourage while we’re here.”