Air Force chief of staff visits Arnold

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The chief of staff of the Air Force made his first visit to Middle Tennessee and to Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., Monday to see and learn about developmental testing of current and future weapons systems.

Gen. Norton Schwartz's inaugural tour of AEDC started off with a bang, literally, by witnessing a ground test firing of a Minuteman upper-stage rocket motor in the center's J-6 Large Rocket Motor Test Facility.

The center tests several Minuteman rocket motors each year to survey aging effects and as part of the propulsion replacement program. The testing is important to assure the viability of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile fleet.

Afterward, he toured other center facilities, including the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility where a Japanese military aircraft engine was being tested. He also viewed an F-35 weapons separation test in the 4-foot transonic wind tunnel and he was briefed on the future, one-of-a-kind Space Threat Assessment Testbed ground test capability.

In short, STAT will enable ground testing of space systems against natural occurring phenomena and man-made threats in space, such as lasers.

A $26.1 million contract was awarded in October and is slated for completion in approximately five years.

General Schwartz said his visit to AEDC conveyed the center's key role in the Air Force mission.

"[The center] is significant to today's fight and to our collective success," he said.

After the in-depth tour of the center, the general headed to the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, Tenn., to speak to approximately 600 attendees at the Arnold Community Council annual banquet. The ACC is the support council for Arnold AFB.

"I am truly impressed with the spirit and patriotism that's on full display here and your support for the men and women in uniform is a testament to your recognition of the value of service to the nation," General Schwartz said.

The general used the analogy of the Tennessee Titans' currently perfect 10-0 team record to compare how the military uses a similar methodology and teamwork to complete the mission.

"It is the distinguished heritage of joint teamwork we honor and continue to this very day in winning today's fight," he said. "Today's joint force team epitomizes the essence of teamwork. Your Air Force is all in; as a resilient partner with the joint and coalition team."

He was impressed by the unwavering support for the nation's defense, as well as Arnold's mission.

"Newer generations place their trust in the performance and the professionalism of the United States military like those who went before," he said. "It is uplifting to know that across all generations of the Arnold community that you have never lost your trust and respect for the nation's war-fighting team."

General Schwartz closed by recognizing the unique relationship between the base and its surrounding community.

"The results of your efforts are a testament to championship teamwork, just like the Titans," he said. "And this teamwork, I think, is truly an effort we can all be proud of."