PÃPA AIR BASE, Hungary – During his first visit to this small Hungarian base located roughly two hours from Budapest, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley met with Heavy Airlift Wing senior leaders, U.S. Airmen and Boeing contractors at PÃ¡pa Air Base,Hungary, July 11.
The HAW is a multinational consortium that is designed to fulfill strategic airlift requirements with 12 participating nations.
During an “all call” at the base’s cultural center, Donley thanked the approximately 40 U.S. airmen who are assigned here. He also addressed the importance of the HAW, its unique multinational mission and the significant role Airmen assigned to the unit play in building partnership capacity with countries in the Central European region.
“This is a very unique and exciting program,” Donley said. “You’re showing the international community that this approach is vital and that by pooling resources it can be done. You’re building partnership capacity and relationships here that will pay dividends for our Air Force and international partnerships for many years to come.”
The secretary also spoke candidly about the Air Force’s current operations tempo as well as international and domestic challenges facing the nation.
“These are very challenging times in a complex security environment,” he said. “With on-going operations in Afghanistan, we continue the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates around the world. Our nation faces some significant challenges and for us in Department of Defense that includes a reduction of about $487 billion (in the defense budget).”
Along with the budget, Donley also spoke about force structure changes within the U.S. Air Force.
“In short, we determined that for the Air Force the best course of action is to trade size for quality,” he said. “We will become a smaller Air Force in some areas in order to protect a high-quality and ready force.
“This is a force that will continue to modernize and grow more capable in the future,” he explained. “Though we intend to be a little smaller, we will be a superb force at any size, maintaining agility, flexibility and readiness to engage a full range of contingencies and threats.”
Donley emphasized that despite the challenges facing the Air Force, he is confident in the ability of the service’s total force Airmen to accomplish the mission. He added that several initiatives have been proposed to strengthen the integration of effort across the active and reserve components.
TSgt. Sam Stewart, a U.S. Airman currently serving in the HAW, was impressed by the secretary’s visit and his personal attention to the troops.
“He went out of his way to speak to us and answer our questions and see how we are doing,” said Stewart.