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CSAF visits Arizona’s tanker wing, thanks Guard members

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III addresses Airmen of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, during a town hall meeting March 22. During the visit, Welsh interacted with Airmen and their spouses at an officer’s call and mission brief. The chief of staff got a first-hand look at the KC-135 Stratotanker unit and the Airmen who make the refueling mission a success. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III addresses Airmen of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, during a town hall meeting March 22. During the visit, Welsh interacted with Airmen and their spouses at an officer’s call and mission brief. The chief of staff got a first-hand look at the KC-135 Stratotanker unit and the Airmen who make the refueling mission a success. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III addresses Airmen of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, during a town hall meeting March 22. During the visit, Welsh interacted with Airmen and their spouses at an officer’s call and mission brief. The chief of staff got a first-hand look at the KC-135 Stratotanker unit and the Airmen who make the refueling mission a success. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III addresses Airmen of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, during a town hall meeting March 22. During the visit, Welsh interacted with Airmen and their spouses at an officer’s call and mission brief. The chief of staff got a first-hand look at the KC-135 Stratotanker unit and the Airmen who make the refueling mission a success. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos)

PHOENIX -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and his wife Betty visited the Arizona Air National Guard's 161st Air Refueling Wing here March 22 to discuss the future of the Air Force, meet Airmen and their families, and thank them for their service.

During the visit, Welsh interacted with Airmen and their spouses at a town hall meeting, officer's call and mission brief. The chief of staff got a first-hand look at the KC-135 Stratotanker unit and the Guard members who make the refueling mission a success.

"I just want to say thank you for who you are, what you do, and how you take care of each other...you're fantastic," Welsh said. "Thanks for everything you do, how well you do it and the incredible way you represent our nation and the Air Force."

Welsh focused on people, pride and respect. He stressed the importance of pride saying, "It is pride that breeds success."

"Pride is the one thing we cannot afford to lose," said Welsh. "You take great people, add pride, and that equals the best air force in the world. With all the activity that is happening around the world, air refueling is crucial and we cannot compete on a global scale without a tanker unit."

He went on to express how every Airman, regardless of rank, is essential to accomplishing the Air Force mission.

"Every Airman at some point is the most important person in the unit and you deserve to be treated that way," said Welsh. "That is what pride is all about - it's understanding the special abilities that each and every one of you in this building brings to the game."

He said treating Airmen with respect is something the Guard really understands because of the family aspect that exists within Guard units.

"The Guard is so unique," said Welsh. "There are generations serving in this unit - grandfathers, granddaughters, brothers and sisters; it's such an amazing family feel."

The chief concluded his remarks by reminding Airmen to never forget why they wear the uniform and serve - stressing the importance of loving what they do and being part of the Air Force.

Speaking to an Airman in the audience, he said, "I've known you for about an hour now, but I'd die for you and I'm just naive enough to believe you'd do the same for me. That's why we wear this uniform."

Mrs. Welsh also met with the spouses to discuss key issues.

"I love meeting with Guard spouses. You make sacrifices that a lot of people don't realize," she said. "As the Guard is called upon to do more, it will be very important for active duty, reserve and the Guard to come together; and the only way we can do that is to tell our stories."

She said communication is key, not only between services, but between spouses as well.

"The best way spouses and [service members] can support one another is through communication and trust."

The general echoed his wife's comments about communication during an officer's call.

"We need to communicate better," he said. "Bring logic into the discussion, leave emotion at the door and get the facts right. By communicating the 'why' - you will be part of the solution."

"It was truly a privilege to host General Welsh, his wife Betty, and their travel team," said Col. Gary Brewer, the wing commander. "Thank you to all the Airmen who made this visit a memorable experience. I'm very proud of all the hard work you do day after day."