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NEWS | July 17, 2009

You are the War Fighter

By Lt. Col. David D. Banholzer Presidential Airlift Squadron commander

The men and women of the 89th Airlift Wing, as proud members of Team Andrews, have a long history of playing an integral role in the implementation of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Although the business suits and blues you see these fliers wear might not look like a "war fighter" uniform, they are the uniforms that project Air Power like no other unit in our Air Force.

It's not uncommon to hear many CONUS military units use the phrase "in support of the war fighter." They usually are referring to how their unit organizes, trains and equips forces for eventual deployment to a theater of operations. Team Andrews does in fact deploy a great number of personnel into harm's way around the globe as tasked by combatant commanders. However, one of our primary missions is delivering our nation's leaders to any airfield worldwide on a moment's notice, and that is as much of a day-to-day "war fighter" mission as any other deployed combat unit. The blue and white aircraft we launch and recover each day do as much to impact foreign policy as Airmen standing watch around the world in any number of combat zones. Many of Andrews' aircraft are the ultimate command and control platforms and the actions of the people we fly aboard them determine whether or not combat forces will be required in the field. Any Team Andrews member who interacts with the 89 AW mission is having a direct impact on our national security by ensuring that our leaders are able to safely, comfortably and reliably move from place to place as they make decisions that have enormous impact on world events.

The battle uniform of the 89 AW is the business suit (89 AW aircrews wear civilian attire when they fly internationally - they are as much a part of the diplomatic mission as they are a military operation). When flying in the CONUS, the aircrew battle uniform is blues. The more formal "uniform" worn reminds all of the tremendous professionalism required and helps maintain the proper mindset as they execute a mission of greater importance to U.S. national security than any other mission they have likely flown in previous Air Force "combat" aircraft. There is simply no room for error. The passengers carried, and accordingly the airplanes that they fly in, are continually surrounded by a media spotlight that cannot be understated. While every Airman in our Air Force can have a strategic impact today through unprecedented media coverage, no unit has Airmen closer to the press day in and day out than some units right here on Andrews.

The blue and white aircraft you see on the Andrews ramp are the ultimate display of Air Power. When they land on foreign soil, there is an unmistakable message delivered. The prestige and power of our nation are clearly on display as the bold print "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" atop the fuselage announces our presence. Words simply cannot describe the pride I feel as I travel around the world and see scores of individuals come out to the airport just to catch a glimpse of our airplane. They come and stand just outside the fence line, long after the passengers have left, sometimes well into the middle of the night. Some snap photos, often parents bring their entire family to remember the event and others just stand in awe. The illuminated flag emblazoned on the tail of our aircraft sends a strong message to the global community.

As an important part of Team Andrews, the mission of the 89 AW isn't to organize, train and equip forces for future combat operations. Every day is game day and there is no place for rookie mistakes. It's got to be a world championship team performance every time.