Air Force secretary: Armed
services more integrated, more high-tech
by Stephanie Gross
Secretary of the Air Force James Roche spoke to U.Va. ROTC
students Sept. 5 in Maury Hall.
By Fariss Samarrai
G. Roche, secretary of the U.S. Air Force, visited the University
Sept. 5, speaking to members of U.Va.s Air
Force ROTC program, and as the first guest speaker in the
Fall 2003 Jefferson Society Speaker Series.
helicoptered in from Washington late in the afternoon and went
directly to Maury Halls auditorium, where Air Force ROTC
students sat quietly in class-A blue uniforms. When a student
announced in command voice that Roche was entering the room, the
cadets shot to attention.
the cadets were put at ease and able to sit again,
Roche commended and congratulated them for their commitment as
students and ROTC cadets, particularly in the wake of the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. He then administered the
enlistment oath to six ROTC cadets who were committing to service
in the U.S. Air Force.
is a rare opportunity, to take the oath directly from the Secretary
of the Air Force, U.Va. ROTC commander John Vrba said later.
Were very proud of our students. They are attending
the No. 1 public university in the U.S., and they are committed
to service in the Air Force. They are the cream of the cream.
the enlistment ceremony, Roche spoke for about an hour on the
Air Forces new efforts at force integration with the other
services, particularly its sister force, the Army. He said the
Air Force and Army are working more closely together than at any
time since World War II, and that coordination and cooperation
have worked extremely well in Iraq. He said the two services held
joint exercises in the Nevada desert before the war, erasing the
rivalries that have sometimes hampered operations.
Air Forces role, Roche said, is to provide whats
needed to make the ground forces dramatically better.
said the services, particularly the Air Force, are recruiting
high-quality personnel enlisted and officer and
sending more of them to college and graduate school. The service
is highly technological, he said, and will increasingly need highly
intelligent and well-educated people. Our people are spectacular,
he said, noting that the Air Force is now one-third female.
all have an exciting future ahead of you, he said.
student asked Roche if the Air Force planned to become more reliant
on Predator aircraft, the unmanned drones that are
being used routinely in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roche said the Air
Force will continue to need the judgment of pilots in the air,
but drones provide the stamina for 24-hour surveillance in remote
and dangerous areas.
are complementary systems, not substitutes for manned aircraft,
Roche is responsible for the Air Forces 370,000 men and
women on active duty, and 180,000 reservists and Air National
Guard members and 160,000 civilians and their families. The services
annual budget is $90 billion.
served 23 years in the Navy, retiring as a captain, and has held
several executive positions with Northrop Grumman Corp. He holds
a Ph.D. in business administration from Harvard.
in the evening, he spoke to the Jefferson Literary and Debating
Society about developing military strategy in a democracy. For
information about the society
and its series of speakers this fall, visit: http://www.student.virginia.edu/~jefflds/