Pacific Air Forces is looking forward to a bright and promising new decade, its commander, Gen. William Begert, told his troops on the eve of the command’s 59th anniversary, to be observed Sunday.

“We look forward to new airlift and reconnaissance aircraft such as the C-17 and Global Hawk to complement the full-service PACAF reputation,” Begert said in a news release. “Changes in the civilian personnel system promise to increase recruiting, retention and rewards for the people in PACAF for mission accomplishment.”

Begert said the command’s contributions “are apparent every day in the theater and around the world as we collectively execute the global war on terrorism.”

“As we move toward our sixth decade in service, I am proud to command such a talented and dedicated force. Together we can overcome the threats and challenges of a new century,” he added.

Begert said PACAF’s troops undertake their broad missions throughout the command’s vast reaches.

“From Baghdad to Bagram, from the Philippines to India, and from the four corners of the Pacific Ocean, PACAF airmen are serving our great nation,” he said.

Begert said operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, plus a host of vital global cooperation exercises, could not have succeeded without the combatant and expeditionary combat support forces PACAF provides.

PACAF counts approximately 45,000 military and civilian personnel serving in nine major locations and numerous smaller facilities, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Guam and South Korea, according to a command fact sheet. Approximately 300 fighter and attack aircraft are assigned to the command.

The command’s area of responsibility covers 105 million square miles and is home to 60 percent of the world’s population, with 1,000 languages and dialects spoken in 73 countries and territories, the release noted. More than 30 percent of U.S. trade is conducted with Asian-Pacific markets.

A proud history

PACAF traces its roots to the activation of Far East Air Forces, Aug. 3, 1944, at Brisbane, Queens- land, Australia.

Those forces were a subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By 1945, three numbered air forces — the 5th, 7th and 13th — were supporting Pacific operations in the Pacific.

At that time, the Army Air Forces in the Pacific became part of the largest and most powerful military organization ever fielded by any country.

After World War II, FEAF and 5th Air Force remained in Japan, while 7th Air Force operated from Hawaii, and 13th Air Force from the Philippines.

When the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel June 25, 1950, FEAF consisted of 5th Air Force, 13th Air Force, 20th Air Force and the Far East Materiel Command.

Four years after the Korean War armistice, FEAF was redesignated Pacific Air Forces and transferred its headquarters to Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base.

In the early 1960s, communist military strength and firepower in Vietnam increased. As a result, PACAF began a buildup in the area with the addition of troops and better arms and equipment.

Combat aircraft of PACAF flew their last strikes in Cambodia on Aug. 15, 1973, writing the final chapter to the long and costly history of active American participation in the Indochina War. The post-Vietnam era found the command focusing on improving its readiness.

In 1992, changes took place in force structure within PACAF as the command assumed control of theater-based tactical airlift wings, theater C-130 aircraft and crews, and associated theater C-130 support.

Since 1944, the command has participated in more than 140 humanitarian operations within its area of responsibility and beyond.

In these operations PACAF people quickly and efficiently airlifted food, medicine and other supplies to areas devastated by storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters.

Additionally, the command supported three of the largest evacuations ever undertaken by the Air Force: the Newlife evacuation of Vietnamese in 1975, the Fiery Vigil evacuation of Clark Air Base, Philippines, following 1991’s eruption of Mount Pinatubo, and the Pacific Haven operation to support and resettle Kurdish evacuees in 1997.

— Wayne Specht

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