The Tucson Air National Guard 162nd Wing hosted Gen. Robin Rand, Air Education and Training Command commander, Aug. 2-3 during the August Unit Training Assembly.
Rand said he gained more knowledge of the unit’s diverse mission outside of the its F-16 schoolhouse to include the 162nd Wing’s support to the Air Force Reserve Test Center, contributions to homeland security efforts and MQ-1 Predator operations.
“I knew of all the great things about the 162nd Wing from my previous experiences in Tucson (Davis-Monthan Air Force Base), but I didn’t connect all the dots until I came here,” said Rand. “The level of importance this wing has for the Air Force and the country is astonishing, and it cannot be overstated.”
The general consistently mentioned the words “amazing” and “impressive” when touring base facilities, conferring with group and shop leaders and presenting command coins to “Citizen-Airmen.”
“It was an honor to be coined by him, and he was very personable,” said 1st Lt. Melissa “Mel” Gonzalez, who was recognized for her work as an International Student Military officer and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response coordinator.
After a mission briefing on the first morning of his visit, AETC’s top officer called on the wing’s leaders to continue the enormous task of shaping the Air Force of today and tomorrow, emphasizing the need to streamline operations while living up to the Airman’s creed.
“You need to figure out more ways to be effective and efficient, and I want to partner with you to do that – but you have to redefine the path that our Air Force is going to be on for the next 15-20 years,” Rand told Airmen. “That is our challenge as leaders in the Air Force, and we have to find that new norm so those Airmen who are not even in the Air Force yet are teed up for success.”
Headquartered out of Joint-Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, AETC is the second oldest major command in the Air Force, but its mission to recruit, train, educate and innovate has never-ending relevance to the global mentality tied to the 162nd Wing.
“Coming to Tucson gives AETC leadership the opportunity to solidify our deep appreciation for this wing,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, AETC command chief.
In highlighting the Air Force’s global reach, Rand pointed to a photo that didn’t have a fighter jet, an air tanker, a remotely-piloted aircraft or a satellite. Instead, it was a picture of American Soldiers in Iraq, sleeping in foxholes during the day before making their way to Mosul. The command pilot with more than 470 combat hours later alluded to the blanket of protection and security that American air power brings to the fight, as well as its strategic importance to ground combat forces.
“I have never seen the enemy just plop down in the middle of a battlefield and take a nap,” said Rand. “But our Soldiers can do that, and it’s because of us.
“Whether you are deployed or in the training business, we need to be mindful of what we collectively do – all 695,000 active duty, Air Guardsmen, Reservists and civilians that make up the U.S. Air Force.”
General Rand’s visit to Tucson was part of a 23-wing tour since he took the leadership role in October of 2013, and it was the second visit to the base by an AETC commander since 2012.