Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning spoke with more than 500 Air Commandos about the future of special operations at an all-call during his two-day visit to Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 9-10.
This visit, his first to the base, was part of his familiarization with different Air Force missions since assuming office June 21.
“There is nothing like getting out and seeing Airmen,” Fanning said. “The Air Force is everywhere and in a lot of places people can’t see, not just supporting, but at the tip of the spear. It’s the one service without which the other services couldn’t do what they do.”
Fanning said he believes special operations will play an increasing role in the future.
“We talk about the pivot to the Pacific as we continue to send more and more forces into places like Africa, the Middle East and remote locations,” he said. “I think there is a fatigue for large-scale ground engagements, which is going to take us a while to recover from; so we’re going to need to rely on methods like special operations.”
Fanning also answered questions from the audience on topics like benefits and budgeting.
He addressed rumors about military retirees having to wait until age 65 to receive their pensions and basic allowance for housing cuts.
“You have to read past the headline and past the first article you see,” he said. “I haven’t heard anyone propose changing the retirement system that dramatically for people in the military. If the decision is made to go through with that, [military personnel] would almost certainly be grandfathered; [changes] would only apply to those coming into the military.”
As for medical and veterans affairs benefits, Fanning said things will improve over time.
“[The war in the Middle East] is a conflict unlike no other for its duration,” he said. “Over the last 10 years more [injured] people are coming back from deployments.”
Fanning said Capitol Hill has made a lot of progress with these issues and are continually trying to improve the care provided to wounded warriors.
“I want to thank you all personally for being so welcoming; it has been an amazing five months for me,” he said. “Thank you all for taking pride in the Air Force, coming to work every day and focusing on the mission.”