Defense Secretary visits Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Published Aug. 9, 2012 By Capt. Elaine Nowak, Public Affairs Officer 107th Airlft Wing NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- Secretary of Defense, Leon E. Panetta, met with United States Air Force personnel and state and local political leaders here today. Panetta sat down for a meeting with leadership from the 107th and 914th Airlift Wings, members of New York's congressional delegation, and state and local leaders then addressed two hundred Airmen in an aircraft hangar. "My main purpose in being here is to first and foremost say 'thank you.' Thank you for your service to your country," Panetta said. "It's a personal honor for me to be here, to have a chance to visit these bases, and to have a chance to say thank you to all of you," he said. In his address he talked about protecting the American dream and making the nation better for future generations. He also discussed the impending cuts to the defense budget and his resolution to keep the military efficient yet not hollow. He relayed his emphasis on strong Reserve and National Guard components, saying they were critical to the defense strategy. "Let me be very clear, the Department of Defense is committed to protecting New York's Air National Guard. It is the largest in the country. I think it is one of the best. I also want to make clear that we are committed to maintaining this base for the future," Panetta said. He also assured that he is committed to exploring new missions for the base in the future. He plans to work with the congressional delegation and community leaders to make sure the right decisions are made for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. The Secretary took the time to shake hands with each of the two hundred Airmen and presented them with a commemorative coin bearing the flag of the Secretary of Defense. It has become a military tradition to give commemorative coins. The coins are symbols of appreciation for service to country and a job well done. "The fact that the Secretary of Defense has visited us at Niagara says that he has taken notice of us and our value. His message made me feel very optimistic about our future." said Col. Jim McCready, 107th Airlift Wing Commander. The visit was prompted by an invitation from Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, whose district covers the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. She invited the Defense Secretary in hopes of highlighting the strategic importance of the air base.