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AFSOC command chief addresses Hurlburt Airmen

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michael Gilbert
  • AFSOC command chief
In my first eight weeks as your Command Chief, I've had the opportunity to visit many of you at locations around the world.

Perhaps my most overwhelming impression from my visits is this: our nation is incredibly fortunate to have you.

On a swing through Washington, I met with special operations weathermen at Fort Lewis and survived a Monster Mash with our special tactics warriors at McChord. In New Mexico, I checked out the school houses at Kirtland and scoped out the possible new home of our second wing at Cannon.

I have been brought up to speed on the phenomenal work our Predator squadron is doing over the AOR and helped graduate combat controllers at Pope. I learned how our maintainers at RAF Mildenhall knocked ten days off MC-130 phase inspections and made my first parachute jump in twelve years during a simulated airfield seizure.

I've also visited with hundreds of Airmen across Hurlburt and flown missions in the MH-53 Pave Low, AC-130 gunship and CV-22 Osprey.

I shared in the pride we all felt when Master Sgt. Brad Reilly was presented the Pitzenbarger Award for heroism and was honored to attend his induction as one of our Air Force's Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Year. I listened with awe as Tech. Sgt. Scott Innis held an Air Force Association audience in Washington, D.C., spellbound with the story of just two of his twenty-six firefights.

On a more somber note, I helped represent the men and women of AFSOC as we paid our final respects to Senior Airman Adam Servais, who made the supreme sacrifice during combat in Afghanistan. May we all have families as strong as his.

Everywhere I've gone I've found AFSOC Airmen getting the special operations job done better than anyone else in the world. You work hard, have confidence in your abilities and succeed everyday in taking on the tough tasks at hand.

What's even more impressive, you are at the same time taking on the additional challenges of change within our command.

There is hardly a place in Air Force Special Operations Command that isn't going through some kind of significant change. We are bringing new aircraft on line, including the CV-22, MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and MC-130W. At the same time, we're moving ahead with retiring our MH-53s.

We are standing up a Numbered Air Force to better manage our warfighting operations around the world and building AFSOC's first dedicated Intel squadron. We're expanding the SOF-specific Predator mission and doubling our Foreign Internal Defense efforts.

While most of the Air Force is undergoing force-shaping - namely through cuts - we are growing. We are actively pursuing expansion to Cannon Air Force Base, and are considering other major force moves that will enable us to better train, organize and equip ourselves to execute the Global War on Terror.

The bottom line is that this is as dynamic a time to be an Air Force special operator as there has ever been.

As this all this shakes out, I ask the Airmen of AFSOC to please keep the following in mind:

- We will come out of this stronger. We are growing the most powerful and lethal special operations force the world has ever seen. That's the reason for every change we're considering.

- We will keep you informed. That said, there are significant restrictions on what we can say and when - no sense announcing something that isn't official
, but every Airmen has a commander and a chief. We are committed to telling you everything we know as soon as we can. Forget the rumors, go to your leaders for the real deal.

- We will do everything we can to make the process of change as smooth as possible. If major moves are ordered for your unit, you deserve and will get the support you and your family need. Count on it.

- There are great opportunities ahead. You are on the ground floor of perhaps the most dynamic and exciting period in the history of AFSOC. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn new skills and expand your horizons.

I wish I could tell you exactly what lies ahead for the command, but that would take a crystal ball. I do know that there is no other group of people I'd rather be serving with while we work through it together.

You have never failed and after traveling much of the command and looking so many of you in the eye, I know that there is nothing looming on the horizon that you can't handle.