Roby Thanks Secretary Wilson for F-35 Decision, Highlights Fort Rucker and Maxwell
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today participated in a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing where she thanked Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson for selecting the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field to host the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
“The men and women of the 187th could not be more thrilled for the extraordinary opportunity you’ve given them to host the F-35 mission in a few short years. Thank you for recognizing their professionalism and their capability. The River Region and the State of Alabama are very excited about this opportunity.”
Secretary Wilson responded:
“We make these decisions based on basing, based on the criteria we try to set, and we try to be very open with everyone. With no thumb on the scale, we try to make the very best decision we can for the Air Force and for the mission. It was a great pleasure to make sure that the 187th – the famed Tuskegee Airmen “Red Tails” – will soon have some F-35s to put red tails on.”
During the hearing, Representative Roby also discussed her strong support for important programs at Alabama’s Second District military installations, including rotary wing training at Fort Rucker, Professional Military Education (PME) components at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, and information technology at Gunter Annex.
The full transcript of Representative Roby’s exchange with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is below.
ROBY: Thank you for being here with us today. Let me start by saying that the men and women of the 187th Fighter Wing in Alabama could not be more thrilled for the extraordinary opportunity that you’ve given them to host the F-35 mission a few short years from now. Thank you for recognizing their professionalism and their capability. The River Region and the State of Alabama are very excited about this opportunity, so thank you for that.
Let me also say, thank you, Secretary Wilson, for the time you spent in my office yesterday. We covered a lot of ground, and I appreciate you taking the time to speak to George, my son. You were a big hit on Instagram yesterday.
I just want to bring a few things up, and then I’ll let both of you respond. Of course, our state – and particularly Alabama’s Second District – share a very close relationship with the United States Air Force. We have a large military footprint, as you know. Things that are important to me that I’d like for you to touch on as far as the budget is concerned:
Rotary wing training at Fort Rucker – We talked about this a little bit yesterday, but I just wanted to let you know that this is on our radar, and we’d appreciate any additional information. I know you are in the initial stages of taking a look at this, and I want to stay informed about any decisions or related information moving forward.
Professional Military Education (PME) – We talk about a lot of “shiny objects” in this room, and PME often gets left out of the discussion. I’m going to take this opportunity every time to bring it up. It’s very important to what our military will look like in the years to come, so I don’t ever want it to be glossed over. PME is such an important component of what we do. So many of you in this room went through Maxwell – Air University, the War College, and all of the other educational components that exist there. I do want to also touch on one thing in light of a question asked about STEM education. The Starbase Program at Maxwell is so great. It’s a coordination between the public-school system and the River Region to bring elementary school-aged children to Maxwell for a course to expose them at an early age. Fort Rucker has a similar program available to underserved communities in the summer time. I wanted to bring that up because I know it’s dear to you, and we appreciate the partnership at home.
Information technology at Gunter Annex – IT and cyber move at such a fast pace that sometimes the appropriations process doesn’t keep up with the changes in technology. So, if you would, please talk about that for the committee.
Let me just say this: Thank you to you and your families for your service and sacrifice. We appreciate your dedication to our country and the United States Air Force. Thank you for being here today.
WILSON: Thank you, Congressman. I’ll start out with a couple of things. First, with respect to Professional Military Education and what we do in Montgomery and beyond, one of our obligations is to develop exceptional leaders to lead the world’s most powerful Air Force. A lot of that is done through Professional Military Education, and we are deeply committed to it.
With respect to Fort Rucker and training, we have sent out a request for information – it has to do with the question of how we train helicopter pilots. It gets back to pilot shortage. If we are going to train 1,400 fixed wing pilots, do we somehow separate out how we start out helicopter pilots so they don’t start out in the same flow? Can we use that to expand the pipeline further? We’re just at the information gathering stage with this.
I will just say, we make decisions based on basing, based on the criteria we try to set, and we try to be very open with everyone. With no thumb on the scale, we try to make the very best decision we can for the Air Force and for the mission. It was a great pleasure to make sure that the 187th – the famed Tuskegee Airmen “Red Tails” – will soon have some F-35s to put red tails on.