WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Maj. Gen. James C. Dawkins, Jr., Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander, visited Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 22-23, 2018.
Dawkins, a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours, has been stationed across the country and internationally. He has filled a variety of command and strategic roles, including 13th Bomb Squadron director of operations, 509th Operations Group commander and 509th Bomb Wing vice commander .
“I never thought I would come back as the Eighth Air Force commander, that’s for sure,” said Dawkins, laughing warmly, during an interview at Missions End. “To come back and have the bomber units on my team is incredible. It’s both an honor and privilege to command ‘The Mighty Eighth’. I couldn’t be happier.”
Dawkins and his wife, Daina, visited the base with Chief Master Sgt. Shelley R. Cohen, the Eighth Air Force IMA command chief.
“I wanted to see how the Airmen were preparing for the high-end fight,” said Dawkins, during an interview. “I wanted to see what advances have been made, what updates to policies and procedures have been put in place since I was stationed here seven years ago.”
During the visit, the general received mission briefings and toured a B-2 Stealth Bomber and its training simulator. He also spent time with each group on base to learn about how they contribute to the overall mission.
Dawkins spent a couple of hours with members of the 509th Security Forces Squadron. He toured the shooting ranges on base, firing both a shotgun and a grenade launcher.
He also learned about and practiced room-clearing procedures, dressing in protective gear with Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, the 509th BW commander, by his side.
Members of the SFS then performed a live demonstration with the base’s counter-drone technology.
“It has been great to come back and see what progress has been made on this base, preparing for any adversary we might face,” Dawkins said.
He highlighted the wing’s accomplishments to include approximately 6,500 flying hours, reduced planning time for successful missions, new modifications to the B-2 and overall completion of backlogged required maintenance.
“It speaks volumes of the base’s ability to come together,” he said.
Hundreds of Airmen from Whiteman deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of U.S. Strategic Command. The total-force integration deployment challenged active-duty and Guard units to collaborate in air operations tactics and hot-pit refueling of the B-2, during which the aircraft is refueled while engines are still running.
“What’s great about that initiative was the opportunity to get into that expeditionary mindset,” said Dawkins. “It allowed for us to learn how to operate in a new location while keeping the enemy on its toes.”
Dawkins led an all-call assembly with members of the base to recognize them for their contributions and to discuss the future of their mission.
“I think they’ll rise to any challenge that presents itself,” he said. “Whether it is high-intensity or prolonged conflict, or an unexpected maintenance issue, Whiteman will shine.”