Friday, January 13, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Base center of excellence

In a recent interview with The Leader, Col. Charles E. Brown, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing and of Little Rock Air Force Base, discussed operations at the base and the possibility of more missions at the world’s premier C-130 base.

LRAFB is the center of excellence thanks to the brave men and women who contribute to the nation’s defense every day, carrying out missions around the world that are sometimes taken for granted, but not by us, because we appreciate their dedication, hard work and heroism.

Brown said inspectors re-cently carried out the first cyber-readiness inspection in five years at the base. “We were the only unit in Air Mobility Command to get an ‘excellent’ in our cyber inspection,” Brown added.

According to the Air Force, the cyber-readiness inspection “is a thorough review of networks and computers on installations throughout the Department of Defense and is conducted by the Defense Information Systems Agency under the direction and authority of U.S. Cyber Command.”

“This is an achievement that reflects the Air Force core value of ‘Excellence In All We Do,’” said Master Sgt. Kenneth E. Brown, 19th Communications Squadron CCRI preparations team superintendent. “We worked hard for this and as a team we came together and everyone did their part.”

The award is well deserved but not surprising to those who watched LRAFB start out as a community initiative that brought the air base to Jacksonville on donated land. Some 10,000 military personnel and civilian employees make the global mission possible, including the great trainers at the 314th Airlift Wing, the Arkansas Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, the Reserves and others that contribute $469.2 million in annual economic activity in the community.

“We care about the airmen and their families,” Brown told us. “Our airmen feel the pride of combat airlift, and they do their job better day to day. They connect to the mission, fighting on behalf of our nation’s defense and other nations’ defense that don’t have the ability to do so themselves.”

The air base has done well, thanks to the thousands of dedicated men and women at the base and the leadership that inspires them to achieve their goals — making their families and communities proud of those achievements.

LRAFB is one of eight installations under consideration to house the Battlefield Airman program, which will train airmen to be combat controllers, rescue officers and joint terminal air controllers who call in airstrikes from fighters and bombers on behalf of the Army, Marines and Navy.

Whoever gets that training mission will add 200 instructors and train about 1,200 airmen a year, Brown said.

The 19th Airlift Wing has been modernized with 28 C-130J aircraft, as has most of the base as the older C-130Hs are retired. Some 60 C-130s are ready to serve on the flightline for military missions, humanitarian aid and training.

What’s more, the air base is prepared for the future, the commander said. Little Rock Air Force Base, now known as the center of excellence for all things C-130, could add more missions to its busy portfolio.

“We don’t want to sit back and just say we’re the home of the C-130. We’re very good at what we do, but we see potential for growth in another area that’s synergistic with what we do here,” the commander said.

The static displays at Little Rock Air Force Base show some of the various missions with which the base has been tasked for over the past 62 years, including jets, Titan ICBM missiles, bombers of the Strategic Air Command and of course the C-130 airlifter, Brown said.

The base is being upgraded with a new $117 million runway that ensures its future for the next 62 years, while other improvements will secure more missions for Jacksonville.

Brown, who has been commander since May 2015, will leave the air base in good hands: Col. Gerald Donohue, 86th Operations Group commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, will succeed Brown this summer as base commander and commander of the 19th Airlift Wing.

Thank you, Col. Brown, for your service, and we salute those who serve with you. “Excellence in All We Do” — it’s a motto you earn every day. We see that every time our eyes meet the sky.