Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

TOP STORY >> War goes well, Self tells base council

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader Publisher

The top commander at Little Rock Air Force Base says the war in Iraq is going much better than the way the media are portraying the fighting there.

Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, told members of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council on Monday that progress is being made in Iraq despite the bloodshed there.
“Every day, Iraq improves,” Self said.

Schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure are being built every day, while the Iraqi military is taking more responsibility in the fight against the insurgents.

The base has played a key role in the Iraqi war, as it has in Afghanistan and before that in the first Gulf war.
“Afghanistan is the benchmark,” the general said. “We’ve done amazing things.”

He said more then 400 personnel from Little Rock Air Force Base are deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones, and more will be on the way in January.

Several C-130s are deployed in those areas, along with more than 50 others, including two C-130Js, from other bases.
The general said the C-130s are dependable carriers that can make long and short deliveries and stay in theater for a long time.
Self would not be specific on how many more planes and new personnel LRAFB would gain after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations are implemented.

“BRAC is good news for Little Rock,” Self said. “We’re not going to get worse.”
Under a Pentagon recommendation that called for shutting down scores of military facilities, the base here would have received several dozen more planes and some 4,000 new personnel, but the commission did not accept all of the Pentagon’s recommendations and voted to keep several more bases open, reducing the number of new missions here.

President Bush and the House of Representatives have accepted the BRAC Commission recommendations, and the Senate is expected to follow suit.

The latest estimate is that the base will get a handful of new planes and perhaps a few hundred more personnel.
“We train the best crews and maintain the best planes,” the general told the community council.
“If we’re not better tomorrow than we were today, I have failed you,” Self said.

He told the luncheon that Gen. William R. Looney, the new commander of the Air Education and Training Command — which operates Little Rock Air Force Base — has asked the base to reach out to community members and let them fly the planes assigned to the base and see for themselves how their tax dollars are spent.

“I have a mandate from Gen. Looney to get council people in the air,” Self said.

He invited council members to fly with him in one of the C-130Js to see how the new planes measure up.

Self also pointed out that new construction continues on base all the time, including new housing now under private management.
“Little Rock Air Force Base is a model for other bases,” the general said.

“We’re in this together,” Self said. “I cannot do this job without you.”