SECAF visits Poland to reinforce alliance

Photos by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank

WARSAW, Poland – Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson gave remarks at the War Studies University in Warsaw, Poland, April 25.

During her remarks to an audience of more than 100 military students and faculty, Wilson emphasized the strength of allied partnerships in a time of near-peer threats.

“In the United States we have a new National Defense Strategy,” Wilson said. “One element of our National Defense Strategy is the deepening of our alliances. When it comes to alliances, our partnership with Poland is important and very strong. The United States, like Poland recognizes the threat is real and that we are better off working together, to deter threats then we are responding after the fact. Those with allies thrive. Those without wither, that is true for a great power like the United States, as it is true for Europe.”

Building allied airpower capability involves participating in exercises with them, training and education, information exchanges, agreements, personnel exchanges, equipping and building networks of relationships.

“The joint training is the way in which we prepare for joint fighting,” Wilson said. “Just this year the United States has opened up Red Flag, which is our high training exercise, and next year Poland will participate. Whether it’s exercise Rapid Forge or BALTOPS or our enduring rotational presence here in Poland, it is important to train together. If we train together we can fight together and our adversaries know it.”

Currently, the U.S. military has approximately 4,500 military forces throughout Poland and of that, the U.S. Air Force has rotational aviation detachments of airlift and fighter aircraft, as well as remotely piloted aircraft.

By working together with allies and partners, Wilson said we amass the greatest possible strength for long-term defense and advancement of our interests, maintaining favorable balances of power that deter aggression and support the stability for economic growth.

“The second and very important element of our National Defense Strategy is equipment and interoperability,” Wilson said. “I was pleased to see that the Polish government has decided to improve its aircraft and seeks to buy a fifth-generation U.S. aircraft, and we will work with Polish government to explain capabilities and the options available.”

It has been 20 years since Poland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and it has also been a hundred years since the U.S. established diplomatic relations with Poland. Wilson said Polish support for NATO forward presence sends a message that is, allies stand united, defend NATO territory and deter aggression from adversaries.

“In short whether it’s training, equipment or exchanges of personnel,” Wilson said. “We appreciate our alliance, the government of Poland and the people of Poland. It is based on common values and common interests that I hope it lasts for another hundred years.”

In addition to the speech at the War Studies University, the secretary also met with Polish leaders from the offices of the Ministry of Defense and the Chief of the Defense to discuss other areas of defense and air cooperation, training and other bilateral opportunities to strengthen the relationship.

The secretary ended her visit by paying her respects and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A monument dedicated to all Polish soldiers who died for the country’s independence and symbolizes the sacrifices made for a Europe that remains whole, free and at peace.

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Photos by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank