Third Air Force inactivates

ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England -- Headquarters 3rd Air Force inactivated today during a ceremony here as part of a larger U.S. Strategic Theater Transformation.

Although 3rd Air Force was inactivated, the Air Force will leave a general officer in country. Maj. Gen. Paul Fletcher will remain at Royal Air Force Mildenhall as U.S. European Command’s senior representative to the British government.

“The U.S. Air Force recognizes the special relationship that has been fostered since World War II with our British hosts who have been our best allies and closest friends for years,” General Fletcher said. “This transformation won’t change that relationship and does not affect RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath. These two bases have enduring value to the U.S. Air Force.”

The 3rd Air Force inactivation marks the consolidation of all U.S. Air Forces in Europe organizations responsible for planning and executing air component support to joint operations under its Warfighting Headquarters. Located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the Warfighting Headquarters will better support the combatant commander’s execution of operations across the spectrum.

“Numbered air forces, like 3rd Air Force, are transforming across the world,” said Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, USAFE vice commander. “This transformation will enhance our role as an expeditionary Air Force by consolidating our contingency response capability. At the same time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to and partnership with the United Kingdom, as we have done for decades.”

The U.S. Air Force began its presence in the United Kingdom in May 1942. The 8th Air Force, the largest air unit ever committed to battle, departed England for the United States after the Allied victory in World War II. In response to the Cold War and to continue a presence in the United Kingdom, 3rd Air Force was activated at South Ruislip, near London, in 1951. In 1972, 3rd Air Force headquarters moved to RAF Mildenhall. When the Air Force inactivated Headquarters 17th Air Force at Sembach Air Base, Germany, in 1996, 3rd Air Force picked up its responsibilities and spread across the English Channel to cover all Air Force units north of the Alps. Third Air Force served as Headquarters U.S. EUCOM’s single point of contact with the British government within the United Kingdom.

General Fletcher will continue to maintain close engagements with the United Kingdom.

“I am excited to be here and look forward to working with our British hosts,” he said.

(Courtesy of USAFE News Service)