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14th AF commander visits Peterson

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, hosted an all-call with Peterson Air Force Base Airmen and civilians Feb. 3. (U.S. Air Force photo/Craig Denton)

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, hosted an all-call with Peterson Air Force Base Airmen and civilians Feb. 3. (U.S. Air Force photo/Craig Denton)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- After popping in and out of the 21st Space Wing several times during the week, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, 14th Air Force commander, called members of Peterson Air Force Base to the base auditorium Feb. 3.

Helms gave the wing a peek into the future by summarizing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's budget priorities and strategic choices for the defense budget.

Those five priorities, Helms said, are a smaller, leaner, more flexible force; a rebalancing of the global posture to focus on Asia-Pacific and the Middle East; the development of innovative partnerships and alliances to ensure quick confrontation of aggression; and protection of key investments.

Panetta's priorities will have a big impact on those in the 21st Space Wing because of the wing's vast space missions.

"I went through his document and looked at some of the things we're probably going to downsize on and what I did not see is a strategic choice to downsize where we're going with space," Helms said. "From my perspective, what this means as we look at the strategic choices that have been made for the future, space is going to be a key front and center role."

Helms said that when she took command of 14th Air Force more than a year ago, it occurred to her that no one else in the nation did the same kind of space mission. "We are the only ones that America turns to when it comes to looking at our national security challenges in space, and the 21st Space Wing plays a critically important role in managing that challenge," she said.

To face a future where Airmen are asked to do more with less money and less manpower, Helms had several requests.

First, she said, "Keep in mind how important you are to the mission. Keep in mind the criticality of what you do. Every single day you come to work, you are an incredibly important resource that our nation relies upon."

The second thing Helms asked is something Airmen have talked a lot about recently - resiliency. "I would ask all of you, be together, work together, take care of each other and recognize that the time to step in and help someone who's under stress and in need is before they start slipping down that slippery slope," she said.

Helms' third request is to find processes that are no longer essential to today's mission. Helms said Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, is asking for these ideas to be passed through the chain of command. "We are asking all of you to think about what it is that is going on in your mission that doesn't necessarily add value to the outcomes of what you're trying to accomplish," Helms said. "Bring up those great ideas through your wing leadership."

Along the same lines, Helms said to come up with ideas for how to be better warriors in the information age. "As we think about what it is we're going to have to do in the future in the face of challenges from an asymmetric adversary, with asymmetric capabilities, the old ways of doing it will not work," she said.

Finally, Helms requested that no matter how tight resources may be, Airmen follow proper procedures and don't take risky shortcuts. "You are under stress, we recognize this," Helms said. "I would ask you to do what is right, as opposed to what is easy."

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