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Mission minded: 12th AF commander impressed with 552nd ACW

Lt. Gen. Tod Wolters, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander, meets with Airmen from the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker prior to a tour of the “Phoenix” Squadron on Jan. 8 as part of the general’s site visit to the base. (Air Force photo by Darren Heusel)

Lt. Gen. Tod Wolters, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander, meets with Airmen from the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker prior to a tour of the “Phoenix” Squadron on Jan. 8 as part of the general’s site visit to the base. (Air Force photo by Darren Heusel)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- When Lt. Gen. Tod Wolters assumed command of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) last September, it was determined then that one of the last units he would visit would be the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base because of his vast knowledge of the wing.

And, according to General Wolters, who made a site visit to the base Jan. 7-8, the trip was well worth the wait.

"It was determined to make this one of the latter wings that I would visit as I was ingressing as the 12th AF commander because I've worked with this wing closely over the years and am convinced of its fine degree of professionalism," he said. "As I leave here, it reaffirmed my faith in exactly what the system does in a combat wing like this. The degree of professionalism is as fine as I've ever seen anywhere.

"These folks are ready," he added. "They don't see problems, they just see challenges. They scratch and they claw, they scrap and they find ways to produce results and it's been extremely inspiring."

General Wolters went on to say when you've been around organizations like the 552nd ACW, you can tell within the first five seconds that the Airmen know what they're talking about and they're focused on the mission.

"You can feel it," he said. "You can sense it."

The general also touched on the degree of cooperation that exists between the 552nd ACW and the 72nd Air Base Wing, as well as the degree of cooperation that exists between the three separate groups within the wing, referring to both as "phenomenal."
"They've always had to be that way to survive and they are certainly that way today," he said. "They're thriving today because of their understanding of how important each other's contributions are to the mission.

"The other fantastic thing to see is the good order and discipline that this wing continually displays," he added. "The holiday season reflects a wing that demonstrates good order and discipline and you can tell by visiting with the young Airmen that they're focused on the mission and they're minding their Ps & Qs appropriately and it's all good."

12th Air Force is a premier component-numbered air force, supporting global operations and providing dominant air component support to USSOUTHCOM.

"To continue to deliver our brand of dominant air power, we will continue to focus on Combat Capability and Readiness, Fostering Resilience and Increasing Efficiency," said General Wolters, whose role as commander is to ensure the readiness of 10 active duty wings and one direct reporting unit for contingency operations, as well as overseeing 17 gained Air Reserve Component units totaling more than 800 aircraft and 65,000 Airmen.

As the air and space component to U.S. Southern Command, Air Forces Southern conducts security cooperation and provides air, space and cyberspace capabilities throughout the 31 nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

General Wolters said successful air operations require effective command and control, and the extraordinary professionals in the 552nd ACW maintain capabilities that are the envy of the rest of the world.

"From displaying first-class capabilities at RED FLAG, to counter-drug operations in the Caribbean, to controlling the AFCENT skies from the ground and air, the 552nd ACW is absolutely central to the USAF, 12th AF and AFSOUTH's ability to foster security and defend our nation," he said.

The general said the Airmen of 12th AF and Air Force Southern have a reputation for excellence heralding from its earliest days under General Doolittle and the skies of North Africa and Europe.

"The innovation, excellence and sacrifice of today's warriors conducting our global operations are downright impressive and immensely appreciated," he said.

During his visit, the general held an "all call" with Airmen at the Team Tinker Auditorium. Much of the discussion, however, centered around today's budget uncertainty and impending personnel cuts.
"We are all painfully familiar with the constraints placed on us by sequestration," the general said. "We will not send Airmen into combat that are not trained and equipped to do the job. We won't waiver on this commitment, and the 552nd ACW will continue to prioritize our most mission essential tasks for our limited funding."

The general went on to say "after sacrificing so much, the continuing loyalty of our great Airmen may be challenged by a difficult year of Force Management Programs."
"Retaining high quality Airmen will be critical to sustaining our mission," he said. "We are going to need our best and brightest to overcome the many challenges we face from shrinking DoD budgets.

"I am optimistic...our Air Force has been through draw-downs before, and we'll survive 2014," he added. "I ask that our supervisors support our Airmen with direct and honest feedback, mentorship and the same wingmanship that has made our Air Force so great."

The general, who has performed three tours of duty to Southwest Asia including two to Afghanistan, concluded by saying he has no doubt high quality Airmen reside in the 552nd ACW.

"I am awed by the professionalism and esprit de corps flowing through this wing," he said. "The 552 ACW is living up to your heritage of excellence, and I sleep easier at night knowing you are watching the skies we operate in at home and abroad, year after year.

"Right now, there is a Soldier bundled up against the cold, standing watch at a Forward Operating Base in the mountains of Afghanistan...he faces his adversary with the confidence that should he need our Air Force, we will answer the call within moments thanks to the extraordinary capabilities made possible by your efforts."

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