U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made his way to Las Vegas Jan. 11, 2018, to attend the grand opening of the first AFWERX facility and visit the men and women of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Upon arrival at Nellis, Pence, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein headed downtown for the opening of the AFWERX-Vegas storefront, which will serve as an innovation hub to connect innovators and accelerate results.
“It is a great honor to stand before a gathering of extraordinary leaders, innovators and pioneers and open the first in the nation’s AFWERX in Las Vegas … leading the way again!” Pence said.
After meeting with state officials and community dignitaries, the vice president, Wilson and Goldfein returned to Nellis AFB to meet the Airmen of Air Combat Command’s largest base and home to the U.S. Thunderbirds. Wilson began the ceremony with opening remarks, praising Nellis AFB for providing the tools and tactical training to prepare today’s Airmen to react within seconds during real world operations and meet the need for air superiority.
“This is where we, as Airmen, push the envelope,” Wilson said. “We push ourselves and teams to do better, to be better, to fight harder, to learn more and to take the fight to the adversary. This is where you develop the tactics and practice with the equipment that will give every one of you a better chance to defeat the enemy and come home, again.
“In the 1950s, it was the F-86 (Sabre) that gave us a 14-1 kill ratio over Korea,” Wilson continued. “Today, it’s the F-35 (Lightning II) with space and cyber and unmanned [aerial] vehicles ready — ready to take the fight to the enemy.”
As the late afternoon crept onto the flightline, Pence and the crowd of men and women in uniform turned their eyes to the sky to see two F-22 Raptor and two F-35 fighter jets thunder overhead. Following the fifth-generation flyover, Pence turned toward his audience to express his gratitude for a vast history of air superiority.
“This base is essential to America’s national security, but you already know that,” Pence began. “For more than 75 years, in these halls and on these runways and in the vast expanse above us, our nations’ Airmen have prepared to fly and fight for freedom – and fight they have. Nearly 60,000 gunners trained here before they took wing in the Second World War. Many of our fighter aces sharpened their skills in these skies.”
The vice president also lauded the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center for its rigorous and realistic training via the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and Nevada Test and Training Range.
“To this day, Nellis trains the best combat aviators in the world,” Pence said. “As we speak, I know nearly 600 of your members are in the skies and in the fight and we think of them this hour.
“As all of you know, year-round, through the Air Force Warfare Center, this base is laser-focused on testing, tactics and training,” he continued. “From the Weapons School, where the best train with our most lethal technology to exercise Red Flag, which gives our pilots a realistic combat experience, to the NTTR unlike any training complex in the world.”
As the sun set on the desert horizon, the vice president made his way through the crowd, shaking hands and snapping photos with the Airmen. Bringing the day to a close, Pence toured the Thunderbirds museum, which houses decades of memorabilia and achievements by the Air Force’s premier aerial demonstration team, before heading to the Thunderbirds hangar for an up-close look at an F-35 Lightning II and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets.