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COMACC visits Ellsworth, talks hot topics

ELLSWORTH AFB, S.D. -- Gen. William M. Fraser III, commander of Air Combat Command visited here Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, and met with Airmen at several locations around the base to show his appreciation for their work and answer their questions.

General Fraser also addressed a range of concerns from Ellsworth Airmen, including deployment tempos, how local numbers of maintenance personnel are effecting the B-1 fleet, and the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection.

"I know there's a lot of pressure on the wing, people are working very hard, and they're focused on ensuring their success," he said. "I've always tried to stress that if we really live by our core values - integrity, service, and excellence in all we do, then we shouldn't care who comes in to take a look at us, because we'll always be prepared to accomplish the mission and we'll be proud to show off our ability to do it."

He said the inspection is important not only because it gives commanders a tool to honestly assess the readiness and capabilities of the wing, but it also gives the wing a chance to focus on combatant commander requirements that aren't used regularly in current wars.

One of the main themes throughout his visit was his appreciation of all Airmen, their families and the local community for their dedication, sacrifice and support. He said without them, Ellsworth Airmen couldn't maintain their "extremely impressive" contributions to today's fight. More than 35 percent of Airmen here completed a combat tour in 2009.

"Ellsworth's role has been huge," Gen. Fraser said. "I saw some of the numbers today and they are extremely impressive. As I go around the AOR and hear about the B-1 and all that our deployed Airmen are accomplishing, it is obvious to me how much commanders value them."

With upcoming ORIs, deployments and a high operations tempo, one of the general's greatest concerns is the health of all Airmen under his command.

"Airmen should take a holistic approach to not only taking care of themselves but of each other," he said. "Tell others it's OK to reach out and ask for help, keep the lines of communication open and break down the barriers. We have to train, educate and put some additional tools in place so our commanders and supervisors can be more effective in taking care of our Airmen."

The high deployment and operations tempo not only stresses Airmen, but the B-1 fleet as well, which results in a greater need for maintainers. To meet this need, 260 additional maintainers have been added here since 2009.

"The changes we've made have all been positive," he said. "I think we're on the right path and once we get all of the faces in the spaces then get the people trained, I have no doubt that we'll see a positive trend in to increase aircraft availability."

As for what the future holds for deployments, the general said, "I'm not sure if I have the right crystal ball to determine the outlook for deployments, but what I do know is that combatant commanders will continue to value, appreciate and seek out the contributions of our Airmen."

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