Arctic Security Expedition: AF leaders visit Eielson, gain insight to U.S. Arctic ops

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Alaskan Command commander, and U.S. Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, look at a cold weather gear display during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands visited Eielson AFB and other locations in Alaska to learn and discuss the challenges units face operating in the Arctic region and the affects climate change may have on their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Alaskan Command commander, and U.S. Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, look at a cold weather gear display during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands visited Eielson AFB and other locations in Alaska to learn and discuss the challenges units face operating in the Arctic region and the affects climate change may have on their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters carrying senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands taxis on the runway Sept. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Senior leaders were given a tour of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range (JPARC) as part of an Arctic Security Expedition in order to learn about U.S. military operations in the Arctic region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters carrying senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands taxis on the runway Sept. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Senior leaders were given a tour of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range (JPARC) as part of an Arctic Security Expedition in order to learn about U.S. military operations in the Arctic region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, briefs Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Senior leaders visited Eielson AFB and other locations in Alaska to better understand the challenges of operating in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, briefs Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Senior leaders visited Eielson AFB and other locations in Alaska to better understand the challenges of operating in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Alaskan Command commander, briefs Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept. 8, 2017, at the Yukon Club on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The purpose of the Arctic Security Expedition is to give senior leaders a chance to gain better understanding of the unique capabilities in the region and to learn about the challenges the units face operating in the harsh climate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Alaskan Command commander, briefs Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept. 8, 2017, at the Yukon Club on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The purpose of the Arctic Security Expedition is to give senior leaders a chance to gain better understanding of the unique capabilities in the region and to learn about the challenges the units face operating in the harsh climate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and several major commands, including the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, visited Eielson Air Force Base and other locations in Alaska during an Arctic Security Expedition Sept 8-9.

The purpose of the expedition was to help leaders gain a better understanding of the unique capabilities as well as the challenges the fighter wing and other units face operating in the harsh Arctic climate. The information and knowledge gained will aid leaders as they explore options regarding the future strategy and investments relating to national security in the Arctic.

The first stop on the expedition was at Eielson AFB where leaders spoke to Airmen with first-hand experience operating in the extreme environment of interior Alaska. They also received an update on the F-35 Lightning II beddown slated to begin in 2020.

The 354th Fighter Wing commander, U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, provided a mission brief and highlighted the wing’s role in the U.S. Arctic Defense Strategy.

“Eielson Air Force Base is an absolutely critical piece of the U.S. Arctic Defense strategy. Our location in interior Alaska puts us in an advantageous position to respond to potential threats in this region and across the Northern Hemisphere”, he said.

Mineau also shared his perspective on Arctic operations and the resources necessary to maintain the base infrastructure and sustain the mission.

Alaskan Command commander, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, also spoke of the importance and strategic benefits of having U.S. forces in Alaska echoing Mineau’s sentiments.

“Alaska is a strategic location," Wilsbach said. "We have a number of forces in Alaska including those at JBER [Joint Base Elmandorf-Richardson] as well as Eielson and they are prepared to deploy if our nation’s leadership asks us to deploy. Within a matter of days we can get to the places in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region where we might have conflict; that’s the main reason Alaska has the force posture that it does."

Senior leaders will continue the Arctic Security Expedition visiting locations in Greenland and Canada.