THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – ""This trip was as unique as going into space,"" said Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at the end of his whirlwind Thule Air Base tour July 1-2.
The commander and his wife saw the base's unique space superiority mission firsthand and the men and women who make it happen during their recent trip to the Top of the World.
During their time here, they visited numerous sites on base, including the 12th Space Warning Squadron's Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar,
the 22nd Space Operations Squadron's Detachment 3, as well as several quality-of-life focused sites from dormitories to the Fitness and Sports Center – all in less than 18 hours.
However, one of the most important parts of the trip for the general was getting to meet the people. From a breakfast with enlisted Airmen to lunch with company grade officers, he took every opportunity to get to know the men and women who carry out the mission at Thule.
At the end of his trip, he described the best part of his trip to the DoD's northernmost installation in the world.
""Meeting the entire Team Thule – Americans, Danes, Canadians, Greenlanders and contractors – that was the best part!"" he explained.
After an aerial tour of the base and just part of the 232,000 acres that make up the Thule Defense area, he visited BMEWS.
While at that site, he visited the on-duty crew on the operations floor and saw the continuing progress being made to the Upgraded Early Warning Radar. While there, he highlighted the importance of the radar and mission that the operators there carry out 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
""It's absolutely vital that this radar be up all the time!"" General Chilton emphasized. ""This is the cornerstone for early warning. ""
As he spoke to the group, he explained the number one rule of any type of battle – regardless of the location, whether it is on land, sea, in the air or in space – that is knowing what's on the other side of that hill.
""This site is absolutely critical for that reason,"" he pointed out.
The general also got to see and experience the newest piece of training equipment at Thule – the 821st Security Forces Squadron's virtual firing range, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000.
Prior to April, the 821st SFS did not have a range for any of the Airmen on base to train and maintain firing qualifications.
Without this range training capability at Thule, he explained that it would be like going to pilot training without ever getting into a plane.
General Chilton attributed the addition of the virtual range to the leadership on base who worked to make it a reality.
""It's a testament to the team that we got this range up here,"" he said.
The general also spoke to the entire Air Force population at a Commander's Call prior to departing the base.
""Thule is absolutely essential for the defense of the United States of America,"" he emphasized to the crowd. ""Thank you for the sacrifices you make for being up here. ""
In addition to visiting numerous work centers on base and meeting the multi-national Team Thule, the general and his wife also hiked onto the Polar Ice Cap and saw some of the unique sites around the base.
""Thule is a true National asset and I wish every American could come here, meet the people and see this part of the world,"" he said. ""I would love to share Thule with as many people as possible. I'm glad my wife could share it with me. ""