Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein visited the ‘Home of the Hunters’ at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., to discuss enterprise and installation growth and see how the wing sustains their 24/7 Remotely Piloted Aircraft missions through COVID-19, June 20.
Goldfein’s first stop before touring the installation was a sit down with 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing leadership, who walked him through mission updates, the installation’s COVID-19 response, and quality-of-life improvements for the Hunter Family.
The Airmen of the 432nd WG/432nd AEW are responsible for supporting combatant commanders and coalition forces throughout the world, something they have done every minute of every day since 2001. Operations continue to be as successful as ever in spite of a global pandemic.
“I’ve been so impressed with how commanders at every level, especially at squadron command, the heartbeat of the Air Force, have adapted operations and really haven’t missed a beat,” Goldfein said.
The tremendous demand for Reaper airpower became even more evident as the nation adapted to a world, and Air Force, in response to COVID-19.
“Creech, the Hunters, the entire wing, have stepped up,” Goldfein said. “They’ve delivered on every lineflown, they’ve continued to operate downrange, continued to operate here, continued to stand up operations across the country, continued to modernize equipment, and all while handling this challenge of COVID in our midst. I couldn’t be prouder of the command teams who have stepped up to the challenge.”
The 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing team has employed several protective measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Goldfein was able to see some of these innovative problem-solving initiatives, and the Airmen who enabled them.
“Being the first Independent Duty Medical Technician assigned to the squadron, I was afforded the unique opportunity to come in, assess the needs, and really create and establish the role that the IDMT would perform for the RPA enterprise both home and abroad,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric, 30th Reconnaissance Squadron IDMT. “Being a part of this wing’s mission by ensuring each of our members is taken care of, are healthy and medically ready has been not just my mission, but also my purpose.”
General Goldfein also met with members of the 17th Attack Squadron, the 15th ATKS, the 432nd Support Squadron, the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the Persistent Attack and Reconnaissance Operations Center. These Airmen, with the partnership of the full 432nd Wing community that supports them, perform life-saving missions critical to America’s security and freedom.
“Our team of Hunters are dedicated patriots who let nothing stand in their way. Their technical excellence combined with a can-do spirit leads to exceptional accomplishments,” said Col. Stephen Jones, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander who was a member of the initial team that weaponized the RQ-1 Predator and first deployed it in combat almost two decades ago. “These past few months have showcased our worth today, and have made our future potential crystal clear. Hunters are unstoppable.”
Since Goldfein’s last visit in January 2019, Creech Airmen have seen significant evolutions. The MQ-1/MQ-9 reached four million combat flight hours, and the 432nd WG/432nd AEW stood up its first dedicated Mission Support Group. As a result, Creech AFB now has its own courtroom, installation-managed construction capabilities, and an AAFES Military Clothing Store. But the most dramatic advances are those related to the battlefield.
“I’m not sure we have a weapons system that has actually evolved as fast,” said Goldfein. “I’ve always believed that as the 18X (RPA Pilots) that actually started off as RPA pilots and sensor operators, as they grow now into the leadership positions of command, they’re actually gonna take this weapons system to the next level.”
As the only Chief of Staff of the Air Force to ever operate the MQ-9 and be intimately aware of the growth and challenges the enterprise has experienced and overcome, Goldfein shared his vision for the future of RPAs and the Hunters.
“I’ve been with this weapons system since its very beginnings, and I don’t know if there’s another weapons system that’s had more impact, quite frankly, on the fight that we’ve been in for the last 19 years,” said Goldfein. “This community has been as innovative as any other community in our Air Force; I mean it’s part of the Hunter spirit and Hunter pride to think of different ways of using this weapons system that we never envisioned when we first built it.
“If anybody were to understand all-domain operations, and global command and control, and had to operate in one location while command and control elements were distributed across the globe, and understand where we’re going with the concept of Joint All-Domain Command & Control,” he continued. “There’s one community who I can lean on, the RPA community, because they live it every day. What’s happening here at Creech is the future of our Air Force.”