Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper, briefs media on the flightline at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, July 22, 2020. Esper lauded Whiteman AFB’s total-force integration and COVID-19 response. (U.S. Air Force video by Staff Sgt. Dylan Nuckolls)
Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining me here on this wonderful day at Whiteman Air Force Base and was, or I’ve had a great visit today, my first actual visit here to the to this space, and I’m very pleased to be here. This is one of a series of trips I’ve been taking over the last several weeks. What I’ve been doing is this is in the in the context of COVID. I’ve been trying to get out to our forces, to many of our bases, to understand how we are dealing with COVID, how the forces holding up adjustments we made and the readiness of the force. So several weeks ago, I had the chance to visit our training bases. I had to go a chance to go to Paris Island. I had a chance to go to, um, our bases with the Army, Great Lakes with the Navy and down to Texas to visit Air Force. And again, that was a chance to look at how we are introducing new soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines into the force. And how are they holding up under the context under the environment of COVID? It I’ve also been going around and looking at the other end the top tier of our force and make sure I understand how they’re doing and how they’re treating COVID. And last week I was in the damn neck, Virginia, with our naval special warfare folks. And today I’m here with our B two squadron. This is a very unique capability. There’s no other capability like this in the world. The people, this community, people. Missouri should be very proud of this because it is so special. And these airmen and officers and NCOs are quite capable. And I’ve been very impressed with all the briefings I received today and the discussions about the capabilities that this four springs and how well they’re doing holding up in a covert environment, implementing the guidance we put me putting out since January and really taking care of the force and taking care of other folks on the base with its dependence retirees, etcetera. So again, very impressed by what I saw today, a chance Teoh Talk to the planners chances you saw to walk around the aircraft to talk Teoh folks who worked through the maintenance who handled the ordinance and I had a chance to actually be in a simulator today as well. What particularly impressed me to is the close relationship between the guard and the active duty. So we have the 509 active duty with 1 31st guard, very well integrated. Some of you know I served in both active duty and the Guard Army guard. I’ve never seen integration like this. It’s it’s it’s hand in glove relationship, seamless. And I’m very impressed by what I saw today. I got to say the Air Force overall does this very well. So very impressed by what I saw. I also had a chance to on every trip I go to have lunch with a number of junior officers and junior NGOs airmen to talk about what’s happening in the force, what’s happening on the base and do a little bit of a sensing session. And then, importantly, this afternoon, after I’m done with you all, I’m gonna do another listening session with a diverse group of airmen and probably civilians to talk about diversity and inclusion in the Air Force. This may be the 10th of these listening sessions I’ve done so far, all around the United States and even abroad to get a better feel for how we can move the ball forward on diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity in the armed forces. So I look very much looking forward to that. And then after that trip, I go home again. Last thing I would do is thank thank all the folks of service members here at Whiteman Air Force Base What they do, I want to thank all the important department, defense or Department of Air Force civilians who work here and, of course, the wonderful community supporting them. I’ve heard nothing but good stories about how supportive local community is, and it just is a testament to the close bond between the American people and our military. So with that, I’ll stop. And now open up for questions. Question for you. One aspect preferring fact personnel, a federal security personnel you have Well, thanks for that question. But today I’m going to focus on the important folks here Lightman, Air Force Base in this tremendous create capabilities sitting behind me today, I’ve spoken about that before the Harm Hoste Arms Services Committee, so I’m not gonna add anything further today. I want to speak about this visit here today? Yes, Wonderful. 2 20 You know, I find that each base does think things a little bit different, and they’ve adapted very carefully. So during my listening session, I don’t mind sharing. Captain raised the point about how they’ve adapted their pharmaceutical services to enable people to get their prescriptions, and they don’t have a drive through there looking about looking at that in the future. But they’re able to least have a work around system by whereby people don’t have to come into the pharmacy by way we’re doing, we’re hand delivering it to them in their car. They’re texting to note their arrival so little things like that that are really helping us avoid contact to maintain social distancing, but the same time looking at efficiencies that I think will probably hold well into the future. Everywhere I go and I talked to people about the adaptations they’ve made, they say, Yeah, we’re probably gonna keep this one going forward because we found it more efficient. We found it more responsive to the custom or customer. Or if it deals with the new recruit, they find it. It’s better for the new recruits and increases the retention rates. The military. Look, we’ve been in it from day one going back to mid January late January when I started taking reports on Kobe 19. If you recall, way back then it was the Air Force. In fact, the Air Force Reserve that opened up a base in California in late January to bring American citizens back from from China to deal with it. And since then, obviously we’ve opened up more basis to take care of Americans that we repatriated. We’ve obviously been on the streets of America at one point well over 45,000 guardsmen out distributing supplies, setting up testing stations in nearly all 50 states and territories. Just a remarkable effort by the active duty and mostly the guard to do that. And now, of course, we’re all in with regard to operation works or speed and driving toward a therapeutic and a vaccine to get there So D o. D. Stands ready to support the American people. We’ve been there from day one. We’ve been ahead of the curve every step of the way. We will continue to be there. We now have teams deployed to both medical teams deployed to support folks in California, Texas, and we’re leaning forward. MAWR teams on order on the ready to go as states requesting because we want to be there to assist and help the American people. Greater China again. I’m gonna want to focus today on on what I’m doing today. My visit here to white men and talk about that. If you have a question along those lines that spoke back to Schefter, I hope this year, but it depends on the invitation of my guests of my hosts. I’m sorry. Well, I’ll know more in about an hour. When I sit down with this group and get a good feel, it was raised a little bit today. Folks asked about my you know, my views with regard to, for example, removing from promotion lists. I’m sorry. Promotion boards and assignment boards, gender pronouns and references to a person’s last name. All those things we can do. Thio Thio, get rid of things that might trigger conscious, more importantly, unconscious bias I want to do to move forward. We need to be as American meritocratic. Meritocratic is possible in the military. That’s our commitment. The military is very diverse. That’s a strength of ours, to be diverse at the end of day. It’s all about improving cohesion, morale and readiness. And the more that way we can have a diverse, inclusive force that everybody believes offers equal opportunity, the stronger we will be in defense of the American people.