Remarks for the Farewell to Secretary of the Air
Force James Roche
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Andrews Air Force Base, MD, Tuesday,
January 18, 2005, an excerpt
something else that Jim accomplished in these last several years that may not
make its way into a news column or a book. But many airmen will remember this
quality most of all. They will remember how Jim Roche touched their lives. How
he and Diane traveled around the world to meet them and hear them. How he spent
his time here in Washington
watching out for them—making sure they have the tools and parts they need to do
their jobs. How he understood that they are the very lifeblood of our air and
Sergeant Alan Yoshida will remember. He is a Combat Controller who was in
the opening days of the war. His service there, by all accounts, was
exemplary. He orchestrated many air strikes—even some that they call “danger
close”—that helped crush the Taliban resistance and saved members of his team
and Afghan forces fighting alongside them. Sergeant Yoshida’s right arm was
wounded so badly in combat that he could no longer raise it to salute.
Jim first met
Alan Yoshida on a visit to Pope Air Force Base when Sgt. Yoshida received a
Purple Heart. In talking to Alan, Jim learned that this young man—who knew
combat first-hand—had some promising ideas about helping his fellow controllers
fight, survive and win in combat. One idea was that the communications kit that
special operators use to call in air strikes was too heavy.
challenged the young sergeant to put together a task force to look at the
problem. He made sure that Sgt. Yoshida was able to stay on active duty. And,
he called on leaders in the defense industry to lend their support. The result
is a new battlefield air operations kit with improved communications links
that’s also more responsive in processing target and location information.
And—perhaps most important for the combat airmen on the ground—it weighs less
than half as much.
people that he got a sergeant to cut through all the bureaucracy. He also likes
to say that not only do our pilots and aircrews work for the combat sergeants on
the ground. But now the officers in acquisition do, too.
Secretary Roche didn’t stop there. He wanted the Air Force to focus more on
developing the critical joint skills that people like Sergeant Yoshida bring to
the fight—airmen who are embedded with Army line and special operations units,
who coordinate close air support or jump into the thick of combat. So he
created a new specialty code called “Battlefield Airman” that encompasses the
Combat Rescue, Special Tactics, Tactical Air Control Party and Combat Weather
career fields. Given their indispensable role in our joint fight, it’s probably
no surprise that four of the 12 recipients of this year’s prestigious
Outstanding Airman award are Battlefield Airmen.
are many other Alan Yoshidas out there who thank you—from the enlisted airmen
who can now pursue post-graduate work at the Air Force Institute of Technology
to the individual airmen and officers you’ve personally helped to untangle
bureaucratic red tape—yes, we do have some of that!