With intensive Red Flag training exercises still underway Friday, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson highlighted one of Nellis Air Force Base’s most important missions: the continued improvement of its training infrastructure.
“Nellis is very important to the Air Force, because this is where we do the training for the most important parts of what we prepare to do in the Air Force: to go to war,” Wilson said during a meeting with reporters outside the Red Flag training headquarters.
“We have to replicate the most difficult flying environments that we will ever encounter in the world.”
Wilson visited the base Friday to observe Red Flag, the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise, and to meet with base leadership.
During a 10-minute interview, Wilson, the third woman to serve as secretary, said the Air Force is preparing for the “high-end fight” and the “reemergence of great power competition” that was highlighted in the National Defense Strategy published by the Defense Department last year.
“That renewed emphasis on the high-end fight means that we’re going to be focusing more here on the range that we have here, the simulators that we need, the training that we need,” she said. “The Nevada Test and Training Range is a big part of that.”
On Friday, Wilson touched on Russia and China, two nations spotlighted as threats in the National Defense Strategy.
“China has been very explicit about their intention to grow their military power, and we have to be prepared to protect our vital national interests around the world,” she said.
Wilson said President Donald Trump, who appointed her in 2017, will forward a budget proposal to Congress in March that includes money for his envisioned Space Force, an initiative designed to fit under the umbrella of the Air Force.
The Air Force already provides 90 percent of the space power to the joint force, she said; it operates 80 satellites and has about 14,000 people working on the space mission. “We’re absolutely committed to it.”
Wilson also stressed the importance for airmen getting the support of the community where they live.
Specifically, she said, the Air Force is working with governors in each state to make it easier for family members of newly assigned airmen to get licenses to work in each state.
“If they’re a teacher or a nurse, they should be able to work here without a big delay,” she said. “Our airmen are dependent upon that support.”