Real Air Force Normal

The Air Force has accomplished tremendous feats in supporting ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in roles like air mobility and overhead intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “Without all of the efforts and exertions of tens of thousands of airmen, many of them on the ground . . . the entire US war effort would grind to a halt,” Gates told cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., during a speech last week. However, Gates said he still harbors concern that some elements in the Air Force will want the service to return to its “traditional orientation” on “air-to-air combat and strategic bombing” once those contingencies conclude. “I’m concerned that the view still lingers in some corners that once I depart as Secretary, and once US forces drawdown in Iraq and in Afghanistan . . . things can get back to what some consider to be real Air Force normal,” he stated. He continued, “This must not happen. Stability and security missions, counterterrorism, train, assist and equip, persistent battlefield ISR, close air support, search and rescue, and the ever-critical transport missions are with us to stay.” (Gates transcript)