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Donley Highlights Guard Contributions, Future Efforts

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy
Special to American Forces Press Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 14, 2009 – Sept. 11 was an appropriate day for the opening ceremony of the 131st National Guard Association of the United States conference since the National Guard is the original defender of the homeland, the Air Force secretary said.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley speaks at the 131st annual National Guard Association of the United States conference in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 11, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“You were the first responders to defend America’s skies,” Michael B. Donley told conference attendees Sept. 11, referring to the fact that Air National Guard fighters flew patrols over the Pentagon within minutes after the 9/11 attacks. “Americans live their lives without fear because of the steadfast commitment and sacrifice of our citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen.”

He thanked Guard members and their families, not just for their sacrifices, but also for balancing their jobs in the National Guard with a civilian career.

“It takes a special human being to be able to do this,” Donley said. “We could not do our work without you. We have shared many successes, and we have spilled blood together.”

Donley said the success of the nation’s military rests on keeping up with an uncertain enemy and an evolving conflict.

“Our success tomorrow depends on versatility -- and this is exemplified by the National Guard,” he said.

During a brief question and answer period, Donley addressed three key issues: recapitalization of the nation’s aging fighter jets, the upcoming request for proposals from contractors who will build the next-generation Air Force tanker aircraft, and the emphasis by the Defense Department on cyber warfare, which typically is an Air Force role.

The Defense Department will focus on production of 1,763 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets for the Air Force and nine other countries, he said, adding that this worldwide distribution of the fifth-generation fighter will mimic that of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Donley also said the Air Force and the Defense Department have put together a strong request for proposals for the new tanker, which they will submit to aircraft manufacturers later this year.

“We are going to be fair, and we are going forward with this. Watch this space closely,” he told the audience.

On the Air Force’s cyber warfare program, Donley said while there may be a “pause” in the forward progression to launch a fully operational division within the Air Force, the Defense Department understands the importance of this battle space. Members of the National Guard -- both Army and Air Force -- with their knowledge and experience, he added, are integral to this fight.

Donley said he plans to discuss details of these topics and more at the Air Force Association’s annual conference scheduled this week in Washington.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy serves in the National Guard Bureau.)

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Michael B. Donley

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