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Congressional staff delegates visit Eielson

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jack Johnston, an 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft pilot, speaks with Congressional staff delegates 18 April, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. One stop during the base tour involved a static display of the F-16, which recently received the new “Splinter” pattern.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Jack Johnston, an 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft pilot, speaks with Congressional staff delegates April 18, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. One stop during the base tour involved a static display of the F-16, which recently received the new “Splinter” pattern.

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Congressional staff delegates visited Eielson, April 18, to gain improved understanding of the 354th Fighter Wing’s mission in order to pass on pertinent information to members of congress.

During the tour, delegates received a unit mission brief and F-35 Lighting II aircraft beddown update, visited Air Education and Training Command’s Arctic Survival School, the 168th Air Wing and various other locations.

At each stop, they received an overview of the location’s role in Eielson’s mission, and were given the opportunity to ask questions.

“Eielson has a very unique mission, which is growing to play a bigger role in the U.S. Pacific Command’s security strategy.” said John Noonan, a military and defense affairs counselor for Senator Tom Cotton.

Further into their tour, the delegates were briefed on the importance of RED FLAG-Alaska the Pacific Air Forces’ premier training exercise and how it benefits joint partnership in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“It’s good for them to see what we have here, because it give us an opportunity to influence congress,” said Lt. Col. Travis Ruhl, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander. “If they understand why we need more resources then it’s more likely we’ll get them.”

In addition to being immersed in the 354th FW’s mission, the group was introduced to the Alaska Air National Guard’s 168th AW where they were greeted by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Troy Saxe, the 168th AW commander, and learned the mission of the resident unit.

“It’s hard for them to get a first-hand look at what we do and what we need,” said David C. McPhetres, the 168th Maintenance Group commander. “When they come and see the scale of our mission, they’re able to understand the challenges we face; it’s really important for them to see what they’re paying for.”

In addition teaching the congressional staff delegates about the mission, Airmen had the opportunity to highlight the hard work accomplished on a daily basis.

“We love to show the community what we do, we want them to know what our mission is and who our people are,” said McPhetres. “I prefer to have the people who work on the aircraft to actually showcase it because it really ties people to the needs and the heart of the organization.”

Throughout the delegate visit, both active duty and guard units were able to demonstrate to congress what they do every day and teach them about the importance of Eielson. More importantly, Eielson was able to educate the delegates about what the installation needs going forward to continue to be “Ready to go at 50 below.”