By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Andersen Air Force Base may have expanded its air power but it still needs to further beef up its warfighting capability amid unabated threats in the region, Air Force officials said Friday.
“We need to enhance our posture, readiness and lethality in such a way that deters our adversary today and also postures us to fight decisively should that adversary China make a strategic miscalculation and elect to take on the United States, its allies or its partners,” said Brig. Gen, Paul R. Birch, the new commander of the 36th Wing.
Birch officially assumed the helm of the 36th Wing from Brig. Gen. Jeremy T. Sloane during a change-of-command ceremony at the hangar of AAFB, where B1 bombers and other warfighting jets were assembled for the Valiant Shield exercise.
Birch said he looks forward to working with other forces as well as U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region “to increase the operational potency” of AAFB in the region.
“I have a passion for jointness and combined warfighting. I know the effort and expense that must take place for it to exist, and I have the sheer knowledge that we have to get it right here, right now, because of the world situation that Gen. Sloane talked about: the threat is relentless,” Birch said.
Prior to assuming the 36th Wing command, Birch was the chief of the Strategic Planning Integration Division of the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
The Air Force is participating in the ongoing Valiant Shield exercise in Guam, the Northern Marianas and Palau.
Besides China’s military expansion, the Indo-Pacific region faces a recurring threat from North Korea, which is reported to be getting ready for another impending nuclear test.
“The Valiant Shield underway now and other exercises are not just a way we gain reps and sets to greater operational effectiveness, they also signify our resolve to our global commitments,” Birch said.
“Our methods of command and control must be the golden braid that holds together the fabric of our warfighting capability even when it is stressed in the most demanding conditions of high-end conflict. Team Andersen, the 36th Wing and the services members I have met so far are postured perfectly to do that,” he added.
In his farewell remarks concluding his two-year stint at AAFB, Sloane noted the 36th Wing’s feats amid the obstacles it faced when he came on board.
“Command is hard. Two things make this command uniquely harder: the challenges of the global pandemic and the basing structure that allows us little-to-no-control over resourcing process at the time of great resourcing need,” he said.
“But when those forces pushed me back, you pulled forward, you prevailed, you projected air power, keeping a near continuous bomber presence airborne in the Pacific,” he said, addressing the airmen who gathered at the hangar.
Despite the pandemic that disrupted the supply chain, Sloane said, AAFB managed to continue its construction activity, conduct search and rescue operations, and develop innovative concepts that have been provided across the Indo-Pacific region.
Sloane said AAFB last year operated more F22s and held more multiple exercises than any deployed operation locations in the world. “You expanded combat capability,” he said.
He also recalled that when he took command of the 36th Wing two years ago, the transfer of authority was done virtually, 5,000 miles away, with a group of 10 people wearing masks.
Such a scene was in contrast to today's event, he said.
“The size of the crowd, the missions represented and the aircraft assembled here are testament to how far we have come,” Sloane said.