Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>Air Force celebration

Leader staff writer

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, III., received a warm welcome home Saturday night during the Air Force’s 60th anniversary ball at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Schwartz, who was guest speaker for the event, manages global air, land and sea transportation for the Pentagon.

A command pilot for 4,200 hours of flight hours, he served at Little Rock Air Force Base twice during his early career, from October 1974 to January 1975, as a student during C-130 initial qualification training and from December 1977 to October 1979 as a C-130E/H flight examiner with the 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron.

His wife, the former Suzie Ptak, is a Jacksonville native who graduated from Jacksonville High School.

Brigadier Gen. (Select) Rowayne A. Schatz Jr., commander of the 314th Airlift Wing and installation commander for LRAFB, introduced Schwartz.

Schwartz talked about community involvement and pointed out that LRAFB would not be where it is today without the support it’s received from community supporters.

“I see a lot of familiar faces out there and I sincerely hope you accept our thanks for all you do,” Schwartz said. “You, sitting out there tonight, are a textbook example of what an Air Force, Central Arkansas, Jacksonville, Lonoke community can do together. This is also what makes us feel at home.”

Those in attendance included Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim; Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams; Larry Wilson, chief executive officer of First Arkansas Bank and Trust; Arkansas Federal Credit Union president Larry Biernacke, along with their wives, as well as many other local executives, community and civic leaders, military personnel from all branches and many civilians.

Each person in attendance was there with one purpose — to show support for the Air Force’s local mission and its mission as a whole. Schwartz praised Jacksonville for raising $1 million to purchase the land for the air base.

“That set a standard back then,” Schwartz said. “Community involvement. Tonight we continue to follow in those community-involvement steps. Suzie and I salute you.”

He stressed the importance of air, space and land services coming together but he said that was not always the case.

“The Wright brothers had problems trying to get the contract for their flying machine and they failed the first few times but through persistence and community involvement they finally got the contract,” Schwartz said.

In the last 60 years, Schwartz noted that the country has seen a lot of new technology.

“My job lets Susie and me travel and we see it over and over again,” he said. “We cannot deploy and redeploy without civilian patrons who allow us to do it effectively. It takes all of us working together.”

With that Schwartz thanked the supporters for coming out to the ball and showing their support.

“Keep up the good work and keep working together to accomplish the same goal,” he said. “You support us to do our jobs. You are the good people who persuade and support those to do the good job. You enable us to serve and do what we can for you. We are all of a joint team. Continue in the fight, we are all essential to the success of the tasks before us.”

He said that in his current position, he knows all too well how important it is to work together.

Schwartz received a standing ovation from the crowd for his words of encouragement.

Capt. Anthony Cooper, chief of public affairs for Schwartz, later called Schwartz a very accomplished commander. Cooper, a Navy officer with TRANSCOM, the formal name of the organization — the United States Transportation Command which Schwartz commands — was at the ball to show his support to the commander, TRANSCOM and the Air Force.

“Responding to the needs of the Department of Defense’s war-fighting commanders is TRANSCOM’s number-one priority,” Cooper said. “This is what Schwartz does.”

Schwartz coordinates transportation worldwide using both military and commercial transportation resources.

USTRANSCOM is made up of the three military components which handle military transportation efforts across the world. These include the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, located at Scott AFB, the Navy’s Sealift Command in Washington and the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in Alexandria, Va.

Before being stationed at Scott, Schwartz traveled all over the world in his career with the Air Force.

After first being stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, he was stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines with the 776th and 21st Tactical Airlift Squadrons as a C-130E aircraft commander. He was there until October 1977 and re-stationed to Maxwell AFB in Alabama as a student in the squadron officer school until December 1977, when he was then assigned to the 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron at LRAFB as a C-130E/H flight examiner until October 1979.

From October 2002 to October 2004, he was director for operations for the Joint Staff in Washington, and from October 2004 – August 2005 he was director for the Joint Staff in Washington before being assigned in September 2005 as commander of U. S. Transportation Command, Scott AFB, Ill.