Farewell from General Elder

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder Jr.
  • Eighth Air Force
It seems like it was just yesterday that I left Detroit with great anticipation to enter the Air Force and begin flight training. As I look back on the past 33 years, I realize that my Air Force experience was even more exciting than I could have imagined! I certainly never thought that one day I would command "The Mighty Eighth" Air Force. And as I prepare to transition from active duty to retired status, it is clear that my career as an Airman will continue, I just won't be wearing a uniform to work every day. 

There are several of your accomplishments that I will remember with pride from my time at Eighth Air Force. The first is the incredible work the men and women of "The Mighty Eighth" performed to reinvigorate the nuclear enterprise, the Chief of Staff's number one priority, as you helped refocus the Air Force on its strategic deterrence and global strike mission. Your efforts have helped restore the confidence of the American people in their Air Force, and have made it clear to our potential competitors that we are ready and capable of conducting all our assigned missions to include surveillance, reconnaissance, and battle management. I believe that we've proven that we are good stewards of this country's nuclear capabilities. 

The second is the standup of the Joint Air Operations Center for USSTRATCOM with its two unique capabilities. First, to integrate global and theater activities to achieve global effects and second, to integrate "kinetic and non-kinetic" actions, such as those conducted in cyberspace. The Air Operations Center at Barksdale provides fully integrated air, space, and cyberspace effects for combatant commanders across the globe. This unique command and control capability distinguishes Eighth Air Force as the Numbered Air Force Component to USSTRATCOM for global strike and deterrence, and the command element for the Joint Functional Component Command Global Strike. 

Eighth Air Force also established the Air Force Network Operations Center and was responsible for the initial development of cyberspace operations for the Air Force. Network Operations has since grown to such a level that it will become a separate Numbered Air Force this year. All of you can be proud of your role in advancing our Service's capability to fly, fight and win in Air, Space and Cyberspace, as the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force have challenged every Airman. 

There are many things I will miss about this great Air Force: I will miss the opportunities to learn and grow, and the opportunities to travel to new assignments, but most of all, I will miss being around Airmen and our joint partners. I am very proud of the young men and women who are serving in the United States military today. You represent the very best this country has to offer, and as you are faced with an increasingly dynamic global environment, you are going to face many challenges now and in the future - challenges I know you will face with determination and courage. I look forward to watching you grow as leaders, and I wish you all the very best. 

The wonderful thing about the opportunity to move and be a part of new communities is the chance to expand your Air Force family. Every assignment that Bess and I have had has allowed us to meet some amazing people, and we will truly miss that opportunity in the future. I have served with the very best the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have to offer. I particularly appreciate the incredible community support I received from the surrounding communities and hope to keep up with the many friends I made during my three years in command! 

Lastly, I'd like to offer a very special thanks to every member of "The Mighty Eighth" serving in locations across the globe. From the very beginning, you made Bess and me feel like a part of your family. You proved time and again that you will do whatever it takes to make the mission a success. Your selfless dedication to your unit, to the Air Force, and to your country have earned you respect across the United States and among our global partners. It was a privilege and honor to serve as your commander -- you truly are the very best! Bess and I wish you every happiness and success.