The US Air Force is moving its Middle East Command Center out of the Middle East, setting their sights for the greener pastures of, well, South Carolina.
Previously stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the USAF has now moved its control operations to Shaw Air Force Base, over 7,000 miles away from the front lines of America’s seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
The move was a historical one, ending a US command and control presence in the Middle East for the first time since the Persian Gulf War.
The decision to move was made after the amid renewed tension with Iran, which is only a hundred or so miles from the former base.
“The functions that the [command and control center] provides for air power are so critical and so essential that we can’t afford to have a single point of failure,” said Maj. Gen. Chance Saltzman.
According to the Stars and Stripes, Iran’s threats to strike US assets in the region made moving a critical command center an easy decision.
“Iran has indicated multiple times through multiple sources their intent to attack US forces,” said Col. Frederick Coleman, commander of the 609th Air and Space Operations Center. “Frankly, as the war against ISIS winds down and as we continue to work through a potential peace process in Afghanistan, the region is calming down and potentially more stable than it has been in decades. Except for Iran.”
With even the most capable missile defense systems unable to stop every threat from hitting the base, simply moving the base out of harm’s way seemed to be the most sensible option.
“It’s really probably better to think about this as an immune system,” he said. “There’s going to be germs that get into the body. It’s about how fast and how resilient you can fight it off.”
Fiscally speaking, the move back to America is a financially prudent one.
“The goodness here is now we’re saving taxpayer dollars that we’re giving back to America,” Coleman said. “And, you know, America’s sons and daughters aren’t abroad in the Middle East. They’re home.”
While some functions of the base cannot be utilized remotely around 800 positions will be moved to Shaw AFB.
For Coleman, it’s all about bringing Americans home- and being able to work from their own country, no matter where the threats are.
“Eventually,” he jested, “I’d like to be able to do this from Starbucks.”
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