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Third Air Force commander visits Operation Unified Protector Airmen

313th AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING (March 31, 2011) -- Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, 3rd Air Force commander, visits Airmen of the 313th Air Expeditionary Wing to observe the operation and listen to feedback from unit members. The 313th now supports Operation Unified Protector, a NATO-led mission in Libya to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. The 313th AEW provides aerial refueling to U.S. and coalition aircraft with KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacy Gault)

313th AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING (March 31, 2011) -- Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, 3rd Air Force commander, visits Airmen of the 313th Air Expeditionary Wing to observe the operation and listen to feedback from unit members. The 313th now supports Operation Unified Protector, a NATO-led mission in Libya to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. The 313th AEW provides aerial refueling to U.S. and coalition aircraft with KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacy Gault)

WESTERN EUROPE -- Third Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc visited here March 31 to meet with Airmen working to support Operation Unified Protector.

Unified Protector is a NATO-led mission to operate a no-fly zone over the nation of Libya and provide humanitarian assistance to the Libyan civilian population, in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

The 313th AEW was originally stood up to support Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn and was operational within 72 hours of the operations start.

"What you've accomplished is nothing short of a fantastic feat," said General Gorenc to Airmen on the flightline. He added that while NATO has assumed leadership of the operation, the need for the refueling mission will remain.

"Where you work will probably look the same," he said of the transition from Odyssey Dawn to Unified Protector , adding that the refueling mission will be critical for NATO to be able to provide precise combat airpower.

Third Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Vannorsdall thanked the Airmen, many of whom are reservists and Air National Guard members, for their ability to meet an order to move quickly. Some had only a few hours' notice before departing.

"Thank you for your flexibility and resiliency," said Chief Vannorsdall. "We couldn't do it without you."

Also accompanying General Gorenc was the U.S. ambassador to the host nation.

"From our vantage point at the embassy, we appreciate your service and what you do on short notice," he said. "It's a reflection of the strength between the U.S. and [this nation]."

General Gorenc encouraged the Airmen to take advantage of their deployment and the chance to make new friends and reconnect with old ones, noting that he remembers 313th AEW Commander Brig. Gen. Roy Uptegraff from the days when he was a flight instructor.

"Don't underestimate what a deployment means," he said.

General Gorenc closed his remarks with a message to stay focused as missions shift and units move. With the change to leadership under NATO for Operation Unified Protector, the 313th AEW may gain or lose personnel and aircraft as mission requirements dictate. In spite of changes, he stressed Airmen should not lose focus on their responsibilities.

"If you're a supervisor, supervise; if you're a worker, stick with the (technical orders). It's not over until you're on the jet heading home."

Before leaving for his next destination, General Gorenc stopped for lunch with Airmen at the dining facility.

"Having the opportunity to speak with the general, we get insight that we don't hear on a daily basis," said Senior Airman Jared Camper. A MOC controller with the 313th AEW, Camper said General Gorenc's honesty and willingness to answer the Aimen's questions was encouraging.

"It helps us understand the big picture and contributes to our success."

(Editor's note: Tech. Sgt. Stacy Gault, 171st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs, contributed information to this story.)