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New USAFE commander talks priorities

Jul. 30, 2013 - 12:37PM   |  
Gen. Frank Gorenc soon will become commander of USAFE.
Gen. Frank Gorenc soon will become commander of USAFE. (Air Force)
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To fly, fight and win, U.S. Air Forces in Europe must continue to nurture partner nations’ capabilities, incoming USAFE commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said.

“My goal is to work as hard as we can to develop as much partnership capacity as we can to develop a relationship that clearly identifies where we have common interests, where we have common values — so if and when something happens in the future, we can rapidly react, come together and execute like we did in Libya,” Gorenc told Air Force Times in a July 22 interview.

Gorenc declined to say how likely another operation such as the 2011 air campaign to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi might be, but he said USAFE must be ready to respond to another contingency.

“We don’t know where, we don’t know when, but if history is any guide, there will come a time when the nation calls on its forces, whether they’re in Europe or they’re here, and when that happens, the American people expect perfection in execution and they expect positive results,” he said.

Gorenc will assume command of USAFE on Aug. 2.

He comes to the job as the U.S. government debates whether to intervene in Syria’s ongoing civil war, which has cost close to 100,000 lives and has destabilized the Middle East.

Gorenc said he does not know what role USAFE would play if the U.S. launched an operation in Syria.

If the U.S. decides to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria, it would eventually cost $1 billion per month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is grappling with steep budget cuts known as “sequestration,” which forced the service to ground 16 fighter, bomber and AWACS squadrons for three months. But the budget cuts do not excuse USAFE from answering the nation’s call, Gorenc said.

“Clearly sequestration has challenged readiness; it’s challenged manpower; it’s challenged modernization, but even so, my view is with or without sequestration, the American people expect the military to be able to execute the mission,” he said. “Despite the challenges, I think we have airmen that are innovative enough to figure out the ways to get it done.”

Europe’s strategic location as a logistics hub will become even more important next year. By the end of 2014, most — if not all — U.S. and NATO troops will leave Afghanistan, and much of the equipment that has amassed there over the past decade will have to be transported by air.

“What we’re attempting to do is going to be an enormous effort, and so to that sense, support for that retrograde — or bringing back of forces whenever we get out — is going to have to be very effective, as efficient as it possibly can be,” Gorenc said. “Every sortie has to count. There can’t be a break in support that would make an airlift sortie less effective than it could be.”

As USAFE commander, Gorenc will be focused on developing the Air Force’s future leaders by giving enlisted airmen and officers the education, training and opportunities to lead that they need to succeed, he said.

“We have to develop that pool of people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what challenges we’re dealing with; it doesn’t matter what resource shortfalls are there ... that’s the most important thing that we need [to] do as an institution is grow those airmen — airmen that are capable of becoming the future leaders, not only in rank but in thought and process and air-mindedness that contributes to the joint fight.”

Gorenc’s background gives him a unique perspective as he prepares to take the helm at USAFE. Born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, he moved to the U.S. in 1961 when he was 4 years old and became a citizen nine years later.

“I grew up in a very ethnic part of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the south side of Milwaukee, and so I’m very cognizant of people’s backgrounds and I’m very cognizant of what these different kind of people value and so I do have a sensitivity to that and I do recognize that people value different things,” he said. “I think that experience has allowed me to understand and take advantage of all of that different approach and view of the problem and bring them together in order to solve the problem.”

He understands that the U.S. wields enormous influence, but it shares the planet with other countries.

“In order to become partners with them when we have common interest, we have to seek to understand their viewpoint because it’s valid,” Gorenc said. “It’s not a perception. It’s reality and we have to deal with it and not just hope that they’ll come to the position that we see.”

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