Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Air Force Space Command and Pittsburgh local, visited several key organizations in the area June 13 and 14, 2019.
The visit was arranged as part of the America’s Air Force city outreach program and was designed to foster stronger ties between the Air Force and the American public. Pittsburgh joins several cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, and Indianapolis as strategic outreach points because of their contributions to the Department of Defense.
Thompson, who was born and raised in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, visited Pittsburgh because of the unique support it provides to national policy as well as to Air Force research and operations.
“The Air Force from its birth has been an incredibly technical force, and in order to stay relevant, we have to stay on the leading edge of where technology is taking us and where policy is taking us,” he said during a breakfast Q&A session at the University of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. “It’s our connection to the science, the technology and the research base that accomplishes that, and Pittsburgh is a special nexus of these resources.”
During his two-day visit to the city, Thompson travelled to organizations like the 911th Airlift Wing, Robert Morris University, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He answered questions, got to know various community members and thanked them for their support.
“The United States Air Force is truly America’s Air Force,” he said. “There are other great air forces out there, but none of them are as connected to their communities as ours. Thank you on behalf of the 600,000 Airmen, civilians, and reservists. Thanks for your support, thanks for your commitment, and most of all thank you for the work you do.”
Though Pittsburgh has no active duty military installations, The Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard are each represented through their guard and reserve components. This means that people in the area provide a specific kind of service to the country that other communities in the country might not, said Thompson. Family members, employers, and neighbors each play an integral part in the lives and service of local military members.
“It used to be in the Air Force I joined and the Air Force that preceded me that the guard and reserve were a strategic resource, only to be called up in a time of need,” he said. “Now the guard and reserve are a critical part of strategic operations as we know them to be. If you removed the guard and reserve from our daily operations, we would not be able to do effectively what the nation expects us to do.”
Col. Gregory Buchanan, commander of the 911th Operations Group, accompanied Thompson for much of his visit to the area and said that the relationships between local military and the surrounding community are key to mission accomplishment.
“The 911th Airlift Wing, as well as the U.S. Air Force as a whole, depends on community relationships to thrive, and Lt. Gen. Thompson’s visit helped to strengthen those relationships,” said Buchanan. “Several new partnerships were built between the wing and local academic institutions. Relationships like these are key to our mission success.”
Thompson spent time learning about the partnerships the local military organizations have built with members of the community. For example, he visited Robert Morris University’s school of nursing to learn more about the crisis response training they provide medical personnel, giving military members critical experience and knowledge that they would be otherwise unable to obtain.
He also made a point to speak with Civil Air Patrol Squadron 603 and Air Force ROTC Detachment 730 cadets to mentor and potential future military leaders. Both organizations gave the general gifts in appreciation of his time, including coins, certificates, and a personalized souvenir based on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terrible Towel.
Everywhere he went, Thompson emphasized his personal ties to the Pittsburgh area and how his experiences there built the launch pad for his career. He said that he is proud to have been able to apply what he learned from Ambridge Area High School and from friends and family throughout his life.
Thompson understands the importance of support from communities because of his own close ties with his hometown, he said. He went out of his way to thank everyone he met for their support, doing what he could to give back to the communities that have given him and local military members so much.
“The most important reason that we are the world’s greatest air force is the support that we receive from the American people,” said Thompson during a visit to Robert Morris University. “The kind of support we get from you all is just unmatched anywhere else in the world. And I just wanted to thank you for your support; whatever small or large role you play, we wouldn’t be here without you.”