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Chairman Launches Four-Day Tour of Western Installations

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., June 16, 2008 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff landed here today at the start of a four-day tour of western-U.S. military installations.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will visit airmen here and at Creech Air Force Base, about 50 miles northwest of here, and McChord Air Force Base, Wash. He also will travel to visit Marines and sailors at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., and soldiers and family members at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Although this trip has been planned for some time, this will be the first opportunity for the chairman to talk with airmen face-to-face since the June 6 resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

This is Mullen’s first visit to each of these installations as part of the his overall effort to reach out to many of the of the U.S. military bases, but officials expect the topic of the resignations to surface during the “all-hands” meetings scheduled with hundreds of airmen.

In a Pentagon Channel interview last week, Mullen said he had great admiration for Moseley and Wynne, and, while he conceded the service faces some challenges in revamping its nuclear mission, he praised the work of Air Force members.

“Airmen are really making a difference. They’re in this global fight. They’re pressing hard against the terrorists, [and] they’ve made a big difference in so many places,” Mullen said.

Today, the chairman received mostly operational briefings from senior officers at Creech Air Force Base. The sensitive briefings were closed to the media.

Creech is home to DoD’s joint unmanned aircraft systems center of excellence, which overlsees the use of sensors and intelligence gathering assets of U.S. forces in combat. The center was organized there in 2005. Creech also is the training ground for the MQ-1B Predator, the unmanned aircraft used heavily in combat for both attack and reconnaissance.

Since becoming chairman in October, Mullen has traveled frequently to military bases worldwide, hosting candid meetings in which he allows servicemembers to ask questions and voice opinions. He has faced tough questions about combat tour lengths, dwell time at home stations between deployments, and other family support issues. He also frequently visits wounded warrior treatment facilities.

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Adm. Mike Mullen

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