WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Secretary-General of NATO met with airmen at Sheppard Air Force Base Friday along with Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, former Prime Minister of Norway, talked about how important the ENJJPT program at Sheppard is.
"They educate the first-class fighter pilots which are of course a great asset for NATO allies and for our alliance," said Stoltenberg.
Senator Hutchison said it is unique that the U.S. hosts all of the NATO nations that have air forces.
"America is the leader and we are gearing up to be able to fight any kind of threat that any of our 29 nations would have," said Senator Hutchison.
Sheppard trains about 200 ENJJPT pilots a year.
Stoltenberg said for 50 years Sheppard has been a great success and more than 10,000 pilots have been trained over the years.
The two leaders said the community plays a big role.
"I hear it everywhere I go, how wonderful Wichita Falls is to support this base and support the families that come here from foreign countries," said Hutchinson. "They don't know anyone, but when they leave they know that America is a friend."
Stoltenberg said training at Sheppard will continue to grow because NATO needs more pilots.
"I also welcome the very strong support of the United States and also the strong commitment of the President to NATO," said Stoltenberg. "Not only words but also in deeds and actions speak louder than words."
He said the U.S. is increasing its military presence in Europe and defense investments, like Congress passing a spending bill giving the military an extra $61 billion.
"The U.S. has always been a lead nation and has been leading by example by investing heavily in defense," said Stoltenberg. "So, I also welcome the fact that not only the United States but also all the NATO allies across Europe and Canada after years of declining defense spending has started to invest more."
A country that has been adding more funds to its military is Russia. Stoltenberg said it has more than tripled since 2000.
He said in addition to spending more, Russia is developing many new capabilities.
"They are integrating nuclear forces with conventional forces and thereby reducing the threshold for potential use of Russian nuclear forces," he said. "Most importantly that we have seen that they have used military forces against a neighbor, Ukraine."
He adds with the capabilities we have today, war will be something that would be painful for so many people.
"The casualties would be incredibly high, so it is more important than ever before to prevent war, and therefore we have to remember the reason why NATO is strong and the reason why we invest in defense," said Stoltenberg.
He said it is not to provoke conflict but to prevent the conflict.