For more than two decades, airmen have deployed to contingencies and wars in Southwest Asia far from garrisons, and have trained to new skill sets and utilized their career competencies in new ways. Now, as the Air Force transitions to peacetime operations, service officials intend to re-examine this training, according to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. “Our transition to a peacetime Air Force is a big deal, and it affects a lot of things we do, what we buy, how we train,” said Welsh during a talk with airmen in Alaska on Aug. 30 in response to a question about the future of combat skills training. Singling out the performance of explosive ordnance disposal technicians in Iraq and Afghanistan, Welsh said these airmen have performed marvelously in environments outside of their traditional focus, which was to ensure airfields were clear of explosive hazards during combat operations. “They’ve been immensely successful, as a joint asset, and we do have to think about that in the future,” Welsh later told the Daily Report in an interview en route to Washington, D.C., from Alaska. Others have included security forces and pararescue jumpers, whom the US military has heavily utilized in joint operations. “I think, in the future, we will go back to a lot of tasks we used to do in these areas,” added Welsh.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.