New Air Force secretary visits F.E. Warren base

Gov. Mark Gordon welcomes Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett at the 153d Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard Base in Cheyenne. This visit marks Barrett's first official visit since becoming the SECAF. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air National Guard)

CHEYENNE — About a week after being confirmed as the 25th U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett visited F.E. Warren Air Force Base on Sunday, marking her first official visit to any base since her appointment.

During her visit, Barrett toured training facilities, learned about the base’s intercontinental ballistic missile mission, and visited with airmen and base leaders.

Barrett, the fourth woman to hold the secretary position, said she visited F.E. Warren Air Force Base first because of its importance as a missile base.

“The mission that you achieve there is the pivotal mission to everything we do,” Barrett said during a phone interview after the visit, which wasn’t open to the media. “If times are tough, if we face the worst of issues, you’re there to take care of us. I was able to be there to see what is done and to visit with folks who may not get that much attention other times.”

Barrett said nuclear deterrence is one of her top priorities as secretary.

“Nuclear deterrence has been keeping peace for the past 70 years,” Barrett said. “We count on that, and F.E. Warren is the place where it’s implemented.”

Due to snowy weather, Barrett was unable to visit an active missile launch silo, so her group worked at a training silo instead. During the morning, she and other Air Force leaders saw the Bearcats and Humvees used to transport equipment, visited airmen’s housing facilities and learned about the history of the base.

“We really got a chance to see quite a bit in a four-hour stint,” Barrett said. “We were moving right along.”

Barrett also met with Gov. Mark Gordon during the visit. The two discussed model upgrades to the Wyoming Air National Guard’s C-130 cargo planes, as well as the Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, which will replace the current Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“I wanted to impress on her how this was a state that is completely committed to the military, and, particularly, the Air Force,” Gordon said.

Barrett said she was impressed by the local community’s relationship with the base.

“To land for the first time in this role and to be met by the governor was a real statement of the support of the entire state and the community itself,” Barrett said.

Barrett was unable to comment on the specifics of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program because the bidding to decide which company will replace the missiles is ongoing.

“What’s there now has been reliable and effective, but we’re looking to modernize,” Barrett said. “We need to make sure for the protection and defense of America that we’ve got more modern, up-to-date equipment, and this has been holding on for about as long as we think it should.”

“Technology doesn’t wait,” she said. “We’ve got to keep modernizing, because what our potential adversaries are doing, they’re not holding up on technology.”

Following her trip to the base Sunday morning, Barrett went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs for a series of meetings with military leadership this week.