MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff (CSAF) Gen. David L. Goldfein, along with members of South Carolina’s Congressional delegation, visited McEntire Joint National Guard Base Friday. The purpose of the trip was to tour the base and meet with senior South Carolina National Guard leaders and Airmen of the 169th Fighter Wing. The trip made good on a “rain check” from Goldfein as his original trip on September 11 was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma bearing down on the Southeast.
Goldfein’s visit marks the first time a sitting CSAF has toured McEntire JNGB. However, Goldfein is no stranger to many Swamp Fox personnel thanks to lots of interaction during his previous assignments as Director of Operations for Air Combat Command as well as Commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Goldfein has served as CSAF since July 2016.
After landing at McEntire, Goldfein first met with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, 169th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Nicholas Gentile and other leaders to discuss the future basing of F-35s at McEntire.
Goldfein then held a press conference with Graham, Wilson and South Carolina Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr. in front of the main hangar.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, opened the presser by observing, “We’re at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, home of the best fighter squadron in the Air Force, if I say so myself. And I bet you he doesn’t disagree, at least while he’s here,” Graham joked turning to Goldfein. “We’re honored to have the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Goldfein, here to listen and learn what McEntire Joint National Guard Base has to offer. The whole purpose today is to explain to the Air Force and the Army how valuable this base is. Not only should we keep it open but we should expand its missions.”
Wilson, the Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke next and said “As we’re here today it couldn’t be more obvious, General, that you’re here at a place with a terrific climate. Both meteorologically…and also warm people and as we saw today from the briefings, extraordinarily talented and dedicated personnel here at McEntire who want the best for our country to protect America through peace through strength.”
Next Livingston made some brief remarks thanking both Graham and Wilson before saying “Gen. Goldfein, being here shows the unity between all of our different components and the necessity for all of our components to be ready to fight the Nation’s wars. That’s what this discussion is all about: that preparation to continue the Nation’s business to protect the people of the United States. Gen. Goldfein, thank you so much for being here. We call it your home because there’s so many people here that you’ve served with. So it’s great to have you here.”
Lastly, Goldfein began his remarks by thanking Wilson for his leadership, his service in the military and his four sons’ service in the military. He also thanked Graham for his leadership, his time in uniform as well as his past service as a member of the South Carolina Air National Guard. “Ladies and gentlemen, one of the things I want to tell you is one of the many blessings of being the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force is that there’s one chief for this entire United States Air Force which is made up of active, Guard and Reserve. And we could not do the mission of the United States Air Force in support of our Nation’s objectives, we could not do the mission were it not for the Air National Guard. And I will also tell you we could not perform the mission at the level that we do were it not for the professionalism of this very unit. My history is long with the Swamp Foxes. Not only was I a roommate of your former commander, (Brig.) Gen. (Michael) Hudson, but your current commander (Gentile) was one of my young pups who’s now all grown up. The leadership here is just fantastic and I am 100 percent confident in the combat capability and lethality of this unit.”
During the question and answers from the assembled media, the subject of F-35 basing was raised. Graham remarked that “we’re trying to get more F-35s and we’re making the pitch that the next batch should come here...So this visit here today is to explain to Gen. Goldfein that as you get more resources, remember us here in South Carolina.”
Goldfein explained that the process of selecting F-35 bases is both a science and an art and is designed to be fully transparent to Congress. Graham opined “It’s imperative that we buy more F-35s and when we do, I am confident that they will come here and Shaw (Air Force Base).”
When the press conference concluded, Goldfein departed with the official party and proceeded to have an impromptu meeting with some of the fighter wing’s pilots. After that, he proceeded to the Eagle Vision 4 (EV4) facility. EV4 is based at McEntire and is an Air Force Tactical Mobile Satellite Ground Station. EV4 provides real-time unclassified commercial imagery for use by the U.S. military and government agencies. For example, EV4 provided before and after imagery during recent natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Goldfein received a comprehensive briefing on EV4 and witnessed a demonstration of its capabilities.
Upon returning to the fighter wing headquarters building, Goldfein met with squadron commanders, senior enlisted personnel and First Sergeants from the wing in a private and candid huddle.
At the end of his visit, before his departure, the CSAF recognized several McEntire Airmen on the north ramp. The Airmen were selected by their commanders to reward outstanding performance. Those who received this special honor were:
●Maj. Justin B. Mock, Wing Chief of Weapons and Tactics, 169th Operations Support Squadron
●Master Sgt. Jeremy Pow, 169th FW Aerospace Control Alert Detachment – Blue Team Production Superintendent, 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
●Tech. Sgt. Chance Watson, Avionics Technician, 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
●Staff Sgt. Victoria Caldwell, Knowledge Operations Manager, 169th Communication Squadron
●Senior Airman Shari Watson, Aerospace Medical Technician, 169th Medical Group.