by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres
17th Air Force Public Affairs
3/22/2011 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- U.S. Africa Command Commander Army Gen. Carter Ham and his top enlisted advisor, Command Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson Jr., paid a visit to their air component Mar. 22 here.
Air Forces Africa (17th Air Force) Commander Air Force Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward greeted General Ham at the 603rd Air Operations Center, where flying operations in Libya were on display, and work with coalition partners was taking place. Participants from coalition countries to include France, Great Britain, and Italy were present to greet the general as he saw firsthand how the air components all were working together in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.
The 603rd, normally the AOC for 3rd Air Force and U.S. European Command, is hosting AFRICOM's (and 17th Air Force's) 617th Air Opertions Center. The two commands are working together on ODD, enforcing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 and the mandated no-fly zone over Libya. Together they form the air component of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn.
AFRICOM established the JTF to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of security council resolution. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces.
Although working with different countries in similar activities could warrant a difficult learning curve, General Ham said it was clear that this was not the case, and having preparation beforehand may have helped in this situation.
"You can't bring 14 different nations together without ever having prepared for this before," he said. "It's amazing to see that even with such short notice what we have been able to come together and accomplish this task. There is no force anywhere on the planet that could pull this off."
The commander, while touring the 603rd facility, also acknowledged that if it was not for the diligence within the AOC, the Airmen involved in F-15E plane crash March 21 might have had a different outcome.
"It is because of the work that is done in this room, that those Airmen were able to get home to their families again," he said. "From the bottom of my heart, I extend my sincere appreciation for the work here. Nobody else can do what you do."
Chief Johnson, a former member of 3rd AF, remembered his time in the unit fondly.
"I remember being stationed there and to see the unification today along with the professionalism among the enlisted corps is great," he said. "Throughout the Air Force, there is an enlisted person's fingerprint in everything we do - and it's just an honor to see this."
The 603rd AOC is playing host to not only the 617th AOC, but coalition partners as well. Although the process has been going well, the Libya operation has called for long hours and around the clock surveillance. But General Ham said relief is just around the corner, but not without a little bit more work.
"I know this has been a very busy couple of weeks," he said. "I also know it is very important for me to come out here and say thank you. I've had the opportunity to talk to everyone from the President down and they pass along their appreciation to all of you."
"It's amazing to see the many nations working together with extraordinary cooperation and dedication. But the work isn't done yet. But what you do is amazing and no one else can do what you do."