News: Hagel visits troops in Southwest Asia
Story by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Mota
COMBINED AIR AND SPACE OPERATIONS CENTER, Southwest Asia--Detailing U.S. military capabilities in the region to relay American commitment to regional partners, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited U.S. forces here Dec. 10, 2013 to thank them for their support to the Combined Air and Space Operations Center mission and the significant role it has in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command theater of operations.
“I wanted to see this facility and get a first hand sense of what you are doing out here,” said Hagel. “There is no facility like this, truly in the world, with the technology, the expertise and the leadership all integrated into almost 30 nation’s capacities.”
The CAOC is comprised of a joint, combined military and civilian workforce who are responsible for daily air and space operations for the entire U.S. Central Command area of operations.
“This facility is one of the most impressive facilities we have; it is lead by and manned by some of our most impressive people,” said Hagel. “You don’t get this job by just being average.”
Serving as the operational bridge that integrates and synchronizes strategic airpower decisions through tactical level execution, the CAOC is a joint and coalition team staffed of U.S. airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and their coalition partners.
Hagel credits the coalition partnership at the facility as one key asset to success and future relations in the Arabian Gulf region.
“Our partners are going to be as important, and probably more so, than they have ever been for our own national security and for their own national security,” said Hagel, citing the CAOC’s role in capacity building with Gulf-region nations.
Following Hagel’s speech, troops were provided opportunities to ask questions. Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick, Air Force Central Command public affairs NCO, asked “with the drawdown in Afghanistan, do you see us transitioning from an expeditionary to a more permanent presence in the region?”
“We are, especially the Marines, getting back to a more expeditionary, forward-deployed, agile, flexible force,” responded Hagel. “We’re getting the Marines back into their original roles, and historic roles, as an expeditionary force.”
Hagel said that as we come out of the Afghanistan war, one of the methods of getting back to the expeditionary force is through coalition partnerships, such as those at the CAOC.
“Capacity building for our partners is a big part of getting back to an expeditionary force, and it allows us to be in more places and be more agile,” said Hagel. “The more we can understand each other and work with each other the better this world is going to be.”
Hagel’s visit here marked the end of his six-day trip to the region, and he credited his primary reasoning for coming here to thanking U.S. forces for their service.
“We are the anchor of stability in the world; you are much the anchor of stability in our country,” said Hagel. “The United States counts on you; we all count on you, and probably more important, we count on each other.”