Earlier this week, I had the honor of speaking with a group of service members, civilians, and contractors from the Hill Air Force Base and the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, as well as leaders and representatives from the Air Combat Command and Air Force Sustainment Center. The occasion of the event was the arrival of the first operational F-35 fighter jets to the 388th fighter wing at Hill AFB.
Standing in front of these state-of-the-art fighter jets, and reflecting on the ingenuity and hard work that built them, served as a vivid reminder of the fact that the success of the United States’ armed services has always depended not only on the extraordinary bravery and toughness of our men and women in uniform, but also on the superiority of our technology.
In one theater after another, we haven’t just out fought our adversaries, we have out innovated them.
When it comes to innovating, training, testing, and maintaining America’s aircraft, missiles, and avionics, Northern Utah has long been the nation’s leader. And as national-security threats continue to crop up across the globe, the work of the Hill Air Force Base community will remain essential to maintaining the safety and security of the United States.
This will be true especially when dealing with the increasingly complex challenges in the Western Pacific region.
In the Senate I am a member of the Armed Services Committee, and we recently held a hearing that touched on many of the challenges and opportunities of maritime security in the Western Pacific.
In and around the Western Pacific region lives nearly half of the world’s population. Roughly 1.2 trillion dollars worth of ship-borne trade passes through its waters every year on its way to America’s shores. And in the coming years, this area will only become more important to the U.S. economy.
But at the same time the stability of this region is increasingly volatile.
It seems like every week there is a new story about our geopolitical adversaries aggressively asserting themselves in the air and in the waters of the Western Pacific, challenging conventional freedoms of passage and the sovereignty of those who traverse the area.
There can be disagreements between people of good faith about how we should respond to such provocations and other security concerns around the globe. But this much is undeniable: the United States faces the most tactically diversified threat environment that we have seen in recent memory.
And it is made all the more challenging by our adversaries’ commitment to developing weapons with the sole purpose of denying our ability and right to operate freely around the world.
As I sat in that hearing and listened to witness testimonies about the complexity and the gravity of the problems in just one part of the world, I kept thinking, “This is exactly why we have the F-35.” And it’s exactly why the work of the citizens and soldiers at Hill Air Force Base is so important.
In the coming years, the tactics and practices that will be developed on the F-35 by our fighter wings will ensure that our combat forces are able to protect the security and economic interests of the United States in the safest and most effective ways possible.
And the stationing of the first operational F-35’s at Hill is complimented by the work that will be done on it at Ogden Air Logistics Complex.
Nearly 70 percent of the lifecycle cost of an aircraft comes after its purchase, when the wear and tear of training and combat requires maintenance, repair, and modernization. Which is why the Logistics Complex is so vital not just to the Air Force and the success of U.S. military actions overseas, but also to America’s fiscal well-being.
The F-35s that arrived at Hill AFB this week are investments in our nation’s future security and prosperity. And it is the duty of all of us – those who serve at Hill, those serving elsewhere in the Air Force, and those of us in Congress – to make these investments worthwhile.
When I looked out at the crowd gathered to welcome the F-35s to Utah this week, I didn’t just see the men and women in blue who form the backbone of the United States’ Air Force.
I saw the families and communities – the spouses and grandparents and children, the brothers and sisters, the neighborhoods and congregations and local businesses – who together form the vital networks of support for the Hill Air Force Base and the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, and who understand that America’s national security depends on what takes place in Northern Utah.
I believe it is going to take every ounce of effort and fortitude – on behalf of everyone involved in the Hill Air Force Base community – for the men and women who serve there to meet and to overcome the threats that our country will face in the coming years and decades.
And that’s why, no matter what dangers are lurking in the shadows of the future, I have no doubt that the men and women of Northern Utah – and the families and communities that support them – will rise to the moment and meet the challenge, just as they have done so many times in the past.