Members of the Kyrgyzstan Parliament and officials from local towns paid separate visits to Manas Air Base, current home to USAF’s 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, earlier this month. Following mission briefs, the Kyrgyz visitors received tours of the facility and the flightline, prompting one visitor to comment that “I didn’t think they were going to show us everything. … I thought it was top secret.” Many of the airmen deployed to Manas volunteer to help the neighboring communities fix up schools and playgrounds, donating their time and dollars for supplies, for which the local officials thanked Col. Christopher Bence, 376th AEW commander. Bence also responded to questions about money and work generated in the Kyrgyz economy by ongoing construction efforts, saying “My primary objective is to award as many construction projects as possible to local Kyrgyz workers.” He noted, too, that the US government has committed some $30 million to improve the aircraft parking ramp for Manas International Airport and … which will be a tremendous legacy to the Kyrgyz people once we leave.” (Manas Parliament report by SMSgt. Patrick McCracken; Manas Mayors report by Maj. Damien Pickart)
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.