Preparing to bring a close to his nearly four decade career, Gen. Robert Kehler, commander, United States Strategic Command, spoke of an operation focused on mission, tightening budgets and a community that exemplifies warmth and support for its military neighbor at the annual update Oct. 17 at the Lied Activity Center in Bellevue.
Now in his third tour at Offutt Air Force Base, Kehler began by thanking his host community.
“We are your neighbors and how we feed off of each other is a very important relationship,” he said.
“When we first came to Bellevue, my wife and I were early in our career and young parents with our 6-month-old. In fact, we really weren’t sure about Offutt, Nebraska and especially Bellevue.
“But what we found was a community that proved more than just a neighbor and a host.”
More than 120 people attending the annual briefing organized by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.
Along with recognizing the community as host, he also spoke of the command with the understanding that openness and honesty was the focus of the day.
He acknowledged that whether talking sequestration or furloughs, challenges face both the base population and the community. To ensure security and world-wide vigilance, he said stability is countered with focusing on the mission.
“We get paid to not live, but deal with interesting times,” Kehler said. “The threat today crosses all domains to include air, land, sea and cyberspace. Though there is instability, our job is to deal with it through focusing on the mission.
“The world isn’t idle and others around the world are pursuing missile capabilities, expanding their cyberspace operations and we’ve also faced threats by North Korea.”
Kehler said it is these very threats that define the mission of Strategic Command.
“Space and cyberspace are woven into the very fabric of how we fight,” he said. “These need to be addressed and are addressed despite budgets which continue to reduce.
“More importantly, our command and control center is progressing very well and upon completion will assure a world-class capability for 50 years.”
When asked about budgets, furloughs, sequestration and the strains of balancing morale, professionalism and mission focus, he spoke of steadfast confidence.
“While on the Hill, I explained to members of Congress that these actions did impact readiness and morale,” Kehler said. “I explained that it directly impacted our flexibility and that without question there is a human impact.
“However, despite these very real challenges and issues, Strategic Command’s overall readiness remains high and vigilant.”
Kehler then told the audience StratCom weathered fine the recent spate of government furloughs.
“Because of what we do and the world-wide impact of our mission, we got preferential treatment when it came to furloughs.
“Still, my message to Congress was very clear that although the military and civilian counterparts are willing to take risks for the country, they are not willing to risk their families’ financial stability. That’s the human impact, but as of today, all are back.”
Whether talking support, mission, threats or financial constraint, it is the community as a whole that often makes the difference.
“The military has been in the Omaha area since 1886 and we’re not outsiders. In fact, throughout my career I’ve seen excellent support from communities,” Kehler said. “But there’s something about the warmth and genuineness that makes it very special here in Nebraska and especially in Bellevue.”