BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
Two Air Force senior leaders traveled thousands of miles and through several time zones to visit deployed Airmen in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility during the holidays.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen at Bagram Dec. 25 to thank them for their dedication, service and sacrifices.
“Our message is pretty simple,” Goldfein said. “We’re here to look you in the eye and say thank you for what you’re doing here--serving in uniform when your nation needs you.”
“We know how challenging it is being deployed during the holidays,” Wright added. “We are absolutely honored to be here.”
During the visit, Goldfein and Wright met with Airmen of various ranks and career fields across the wing to discuss their contributions to the mission and hear how Air Force leadership can better support them.
“We have a huge responsibility to take care of each and every one of you,” Wright told Airmen. “But I ask to make it a shared responsibility—take care of each other, and make sure you take care of yourselves.”
The visit began with a tour of the Craig Joint Theater Hospital, the most capable Role III trauma hospital in Afghanistan, staffed by the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group. Wright and Goldfein then visited Airmen from the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron and 455th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, where the Airmen discussed the squadrons’ close partnership in saving lives across the region.
Next, the leaders visited the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, an important stop in recognizing those Airmen that embody the “Year of the Defender.” Goldfein and Wright received hands-on demonstrations with security forces equipment and held a mini all call there for squadron Airmen.
“What you do here every single day is incredibly important,” Goldfein said. “You’re responsible for defending our most important assets, and you do it better than anyone else. We are the best on the planet at integrated base defense.”
Master Sgt. Steven Nowicki, 455th ESFS operations superintendent, said he and his fellow defenders were honored to host Goldfein and Wright on Christmas Day.
“They have done so much for the Air Force and security forces, so it was very exciting for all of us to hear these two charismatic leaders speak about the Year of the Defender,” Nowicki said. It was also a great opportunity for our defenders to thank them for their leadership and support year round.”
Nowicki said security forces Airmen are proud of their rich history serving as the Air Force’s first line of defense, and he appreciated the CSAF and CMSAF sharing in that pride.
“There is no better place to hear our senior leaders speak about these initiatives than at Bagram Airfield, and no better time than the Year of the Defender,” Nowicki added. “Defenders here and around the Air Force are excited for the upcoming year.”
The visit continued at the 83rd Rescue Squadron, which consists of pararescuemen, combat rescue officers and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists who work side-by-side with Army National Guard C-47 Chinook helicopter crews. The Soldiers and Airmen showcased their equipment and discussed the importance of maintaining their strong joint partnership.
The leaders learned more about the unique mission contributions of multiple squadrons including the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and the 455th Expeditionary Communication Squadron.
The visit ended with an all call and question and answer session that allowed Airmen to get clarification on specific policies, changes, and the future of the Air Force. Wright and Goldfein expressed their desire to hear real concerns and emphasized their dedication to addressing them.
“We like to do this because we get ground truth,” Wright said. “You give us feedback, you tell us what to fix, we go back to D.C. and we get things done.”
While they consider all comments and suggestions, Wright reminded Airmen that change takes time and asked them to personally keep working toward making the Air Force better for all members.
“This is a fantastic time to be in the United States Air Force,” he added. “If you want to get things done, now is the time.”
The questions ranged from uniform standards to physical fitness, enlisted promotions, resources and more. After all questions were answered, Goldfein and Wright reiterated their gratitude for each Airman and the importance of their roles in national security.
“Evil exists in the world, and someone’s got to stand between the wolf and the sheep,” Goldfein said. “That’s you and me. Thank you for doing our nation’s business and making those sacrifices. There’s never been a more important time to do it.”