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PACAF commander visits Yokota

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The top Air Force general in the Pacific visited Yokota Air Base May 10 and took some time to provide Airmen news about Pacific Air Forces operations.

Gen. Paul Hester, PACAF commander, discussed key points including maintaining relations with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, budget cuts and how they are unlikely affect Airmen's salary as well as how Airmen in the fight are doing a great job supporting expeditionary operations.

For the first time the F-22A Raptor deployed to Kadena Air Base on the island of Okinawa. This trip marked the Raptor's first overseas deployment and provided a unique opportunity for dissimilar air combat training with a foreign air force.

"They received wonderful support from our Japanese friends...Okinawa welcomed them with open arms. They trained well with the 18th Wing and JASDF. This was also the Raptors first rotation in the Air Expeditionary Force," said General Hester.

"The partnership between Japan and the United States, involving the Kadena deployment, was a chance to enrich both levels of partnership and the level of training we could do with our JASDF counterparts," said General Hester. "It was a good first step to getting accustomed to all the arrival and departure procedures in Japan.

"Having the F-22s deploy helps bring us to the next level of a working alliance and better relations between the Japanese and American fighter pilots bringing, them closer together to support and defend this great nation," said the general.

General Hester also talked about the budget cuts and how it would not affect Airmen's salaries.

"Approximately $1.6 billion will be differed from the Air Force to the Army," the general said.

"From this, Airmen's pay was not one of the areas discussed or a target to cut from and give to the Army. Services contracts such as grass cutting, where at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, they are now letting the grass grow up to 14 inches before cutting it, are being targeted," said General Hester.

The general said the command is reviewing areas such as flight hours, exercises and service contracts at the nine Air Force installations in the Pacific.

"We are targeting the areas that we can take the money from without impacting our Airmen or fringe in their readiness," the general said.

General Hester also talked about how Airmen in the fight are doing their part supporting the AEF.

"At any given time there are 6,000 to 7,000 Airmen deployed or about to deploy," said General Hester. "Of those Airmen, at least 2,000 of them are in the (U.S.) Central Command (area of operations).

"Every Airman stationed in the Pacific region is protecting both the alliance in Japan and the alliance in Korea," said General Hester. "In fact, they are standing guard and ready to fight at any given moment."

The general also emphasized how the Air Force is always poised to support Airmen and their families.

"Every year we have set and met goals in PACAF," said General Hester. "Every bit of this work is in support of the wings so they can support their Airmen-- both officers and enlisted."