The majority of the force entered the Air Force after Sept. 11, 2001, which means they’ve never experienced an Air Force that wasn’t at war. As operations in Iraq draw to a close later this year, senior leaders are trying to come up with ways to ensure this highly capable, combat-proven force remains motivated, said CMSAF James Roy Wednesday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference. “We have a dilemma. We keep talking about drawing this force down in Iraq. We will be drawing down in Afghanistan. The challenge for us leaders is how do we keep drawing those innovative young airmen to us and how do we keep them?” said Roy. Today’s airmen “can tell you what they did on their first deployment and even their eighth deployment, but how are we going to replicate that in the future.” Exercises may be the key, whether they are joint, coalition, interagency, or service-specific. That’s “what we need to continue to take all that training and all that development and put it to use,” he said.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.