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AFCENT commander visits Air Force Academy

Air Forces Central Commander Lt. Gen. Mike Hostage speaks with Air Force Academy cadets in the Arnold Hall Theater Jan. 25, 2011. During his visit to the Academy, General Hostage showcased how lieutenants are contributing to allied efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and stressed the importance of a disciplined, professional corps of aviators. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Air Forces Central Commander Lt. Gen. Mike Hostage speaks with Air Force Academy cadets in the Arnold Hall Theater Jan. 25, 2011. During his visit to the Academy, General Hostage showcased how lieutenants are contributing to allied efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and stressed the importance of a disciplined, professional corps of aviators. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The commander of Air Forces Central came to the Air Force Academy Jan. 25 to speak with third-class cadets about their roles as warfighters after graduation and to answer questions related to deployments and to his career as a pilot.

Lt. Gen. Mike Hostage began his 45-minute presentation by highlighting 10 junior officers who had received their commissions since 2007.

"Every one of these young individuals was within three to five years of sitting where you're sitting today," General Hostage said. "That's what you have to look forward to; you're going to stay busy. There's going to be no shortage of work for anyone ... as time goes by."

AFCENT is the air component of U.S. Central Command, a regional unified combatant command that oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. Approximately 50,000 servicemembers are currently deployed to Iraq in a warfighting capacity, with another 103,000 deployed to Afghanistan. General Hostage said that while the number of combatant troops in Iraq will decline, several thousand will continue to deploy in an advisory role; the troop levels in Afghanistan, meanwhile, will remain constant the next few years.

"I think five years from now, we'll still have a significant presence (in Afghanistan), and air power is a significant element of that," he said. "There will be gainful work in the future for all of you."

Cadet 3rd Class Zachary Francis from Cadet Squadron 23 asked General Hostage how cadets can prepare for a deployed environment. General Hostage advised cadets stick to their physical training regimens after graduation.

"Physical fitness is a big deal now in our Air Force," he said. "The fitness program, relative to what it used to be 25 years ago, is ... more intense. We're far more focused on making sure that you can physically undergo the hardship when you're out there in the field. And it really doesn't matter where you are -- you need to be in good shape because the environment is rigorous.

"The fitness regimen that's driven you here needs to become a part of your way of life," the general added. "Don't think that once you pin on, that you can shed this fitness routine, because you need to be healthy and fit to be in a deployed Air Force."

General Hostage is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flight hours in various aircraft, but unlike today's officers, he didn't see combat for the first half of his career. But through creating an environment of disciplined, professional aviation, the Air Force had prepared him and his wingmen for the combat they saw when they flew into Iraqi airspace in January 1991.

"Going across the line that first night, when I first flipped the master arm to hot, all the lights went green, and I thought, 'This is real!'" he said. "But the most startling thing in my mind was, 'I've seen this before.' And what I realized in the course of that 8½-hour mission was, I had seen it all before, through all the Red Flag (exercises) and all the training. It really worked, because everything looked familiar."

General Hostage advised cadets to further their careers by striving for excellence, citing what he called the 80-20 rule.

"In any organization, 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people," he explained. "What I'm looking for is ... to make sure that 20 percent is doing the key jobs where I really need somebody moving the ball forward. I still need the 80 percent, because they're doing good work, but the ones I want to optimize are the 20 percent. You will get the jobs you want, and you will get to do the things you want to do ... because you did the job you were in so well that someone said, 'I've got to give this guy or gal more responsibility.'"

LIEUTENANTS IN COMBAT

General Hostage highlighted several lieutenants in his presentation to cadets. They are listed here, along with an overview of their achievements.

Special Agent Meghan Gallagher - A special tactical intelligence agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Agent Gallagher tracks down enemy combatants and removes them from the battlefield.

First Lt. Bart Lomont - Commissioned as an administrative officer, Lieutenant Lomont "decided he wanted to do something different." He deployed to Afghanistan as an agricultural adviser for a provisional reconstruction team, speaking with Pashtun leaders and building relationships that are essential to a successful counterinsurgency.

First Lt. Roshon Taylor - Lieutenant Taylor, a computer science major, works outside the wire, living and working with Afghan soldiers to build communications networks for the Afghan army's special forces.

Capt. Christopher Anthony - Captain Anthony deployed as a lieutenant within a month of finishing mission qualification training in August. On his local area orientation mission, he and his flight lead were called to assist in a troops-in-contact situation. He spent all the ordnance on his aircraft in support of Coalition ground forces.

First Lt. Kelsey Miller - Lieutenant Miller piloted the E-3 Sentry providing air battle control while Captain Anthony and his flight lead were engaged with the enemy.

First Lt. Joseph Czabaranek - An aeronautical engineering major, Lieutenant Czabaranek's five-person team operates Silver Hawk remotely piloted aircraft for the Army, surveying ahead of convoys to locate roadside bombs. Because the program is still under development, Lieutenant Czabaranek has used his education to improve the system while operating it in the field.

First Lt. Tiffany Van Den Broeke - A 2008 Air Force Academy graduate, Lieutenant Van Den Broeke has deployed twice as a contracting officer. She will likely deploy a third time before pinning on her captain bars next year due to the operations tempo for that career field.

First Lt. Nate Brown - A political science major, Lieutenant Brown lives and works at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he coordinates the collection of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and produces requirements for battlespace owners.

First Lt. Nicola Morrison-Quarrie - As a staging nurse at a Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, Lieutenant Morrison-Quarrie treats servicemembers with life-threatening injuries and prepares them for aeromedical evacuation to Germany or the United States.

Second Lt. John Rulien - A security forces officer, Lieutenant Rulien commands a team of 220 Airmen and 150 Ugandan and third-country nationals that provides security outside the perimeters of Joint Base Balad, Iraq.