USA — Lynn Thanks Offutt Airmen for Recon, Intel Support

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. — The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have point­ed to the impor­tance of intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance plat­forms, and today Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III thanked the air­men who pro­vide much of that data.

Lynn stopped to vis­it with and thank the men and women of the 55th Wing here.

The deputy met with squadron com­man­ders in a small con­fer­ence room and then moved to a huge hangar, where he addressed about 400 air­men of the wing.

Part of the unit flies RC-135 recon­nais­sance jets, and though the unit is based here, the crews fly from for­ward bases around the world, includ­ing Kade­na Air Base, Japan; the Roy­al Air Force base at Milden­hall, Eng­land; and Sou­da Bay Naval Sup­port Activ­i­ty, Crete. The wing has pro­vid­ed intel­li­gence and recon­nais­sance capa­bil­i­ties for all aspects of oper­a­tions Endur­ing Free­dom and Iraqi Free­dom.

“The real­i­ty of what you are doing in the­ater is clear­ly sav­ing lives,” Lynn told the air­men. “You’re pro­vid­ing the tech­nol­o­gy and con­nec­tiv­i­ty and the aware­ness that lets those on the ground know what they are com­ing up against, and know it well in advance of when they see it. It gives them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to beat it.”

U.S. forces are tak­ing casu­al­ties, the deputy sec­re­tary acknowl­edged. “But they are a frac­tion of what they would be with­out your con­tri­bu­tion,” he added. Lynn also thanked the airmen’s fam­i­lies and assured them that defense lead­ers under­stand that the con­stant deploy­ments place strains on all fam­i­lies.

He thanked the main­tain­ers who keep the wing’s aging air­craft fly­ing. The wing’s crews fly spe­cial­ized mil­i­tary ver­sions of the Boe­ing 707 – the first viable com­mer­cial jet air­craft. The newest air­craft in the wing is 46 years old.

“These are not spring chick­ens,” Lynn said of the air­craft. “The abil­i­ty to keep those air­craft up and run­ning [and] keep them doing the mis­sion is a crit­i­cal part of what you’re doing.”

No one real­ly expect­ed the wars Amer­i­ca is in today, Lynn said. “I was in the Pen­ta­gon in the ’90s as part of the defense plan­ning [team],” he said. “What we were plan­ning for then was … doing Desert Storm all over again.” The ini­tial phase of the Iraq cam­paign was like that, he said, and Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers did it extreme­ly well.

“But it was­n’t real­ly the stress­ing part of what we’re doing,” he said. “The stress­ing part in the nature of the con­flict is the insur­gency and the dura­tion of the con­flict.” The Unit­ed States, he not­ed, has been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than the coun­try was involved in World War I and World War II togeth­er.

The deputy sec­re­tary said that no one expect­ed this long a war with the relat­ed stress­es and strains upon ser­vice­mem­bers, their fam­i­lies, their equip­ment and the strate­gies they use to fight. They are adjust­ing, he told the air­men, and chang­ing the way wars are fought.

“What we are ask­ing you to do is excep­tion­al, and your response has been excep­tion­al,” Lynn said.

The sec­re­tary met with each air­man in the hangar and then toured a near­by RC-135. The plane was full of the lat­est elec­tron­ic gear, and the crew proud­ly showed off its capa­bil­i­ties to Lynn. The plane is one of the new­er ones in the 55th Wing’s fleet, hav­ing been deliv­ered to the Air Force in 1964, and every air­man on the crew was born after the air­craft was built.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)