One of the great honors I have is showing my appreciation to the military community for their service and sacrifice and highlighting the work of Arkansas men and women who play a role in protecting our national security. An important component of this gratitude is ensuring our service members have the resources, tools and training needed to successfully accomplish their missions and combat emerging global threats.

That’s why I’m especially proud of a new mission at Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) to train our Airmen and women to become cyber warriors.

As cyber threats increase we need to strengthen our defenses in order to prevent attacks on our nation’s critical digital infrastructure and networks. In pursuit of this goal, LRAFB launched its inaugural Air National Guard Cyber Skills Validation Course in February.

This cyber training course is an important mission to Little Rock and efficiently uses a secure facility on the base that had previously been vacant. Using this existing location saved millions of dollars and allowed for the accelerated stand up of an important training opportunity. That’s why I joined with members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation to urge the National Guard and the Air Force to include this location in expansion plans for a cyber mission.

I’m proud of the class of 20 Airmen who recently completed the seven-week course. They were presented their cyber wings in a graduation ceremony attended by the director of the Air National Guard Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice.

I invited the Lt. Gen. to Arkansas so he could see firsthand the Arkansas Air Guard’s facilities and personnel working to advance the mission of defending our country. I am grateful that he could spend three days in the state and congratulate the first class of cyber warriors as well as visit the 188th Wing in Fort Smith.

Familiarizing Lt. General Rice with the Arkansas facilities, the importance of their missions to our national security and highlighting the strong backing or our communities is critical to maintaining support for these locations at the federal level.

The Air National Guard has a long, proud history in our state. I’m committed to supporting its missions and promoting new critical missions for our men and women in Arkansas. This is advantageous to our national security and also the economic future of our state. Little Rock Air Force Base is one of the largest employers in Arkansas. Along with the 188th Wing, they have an annual economic impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

We must continue to strengthen our nation’s defense. As co-chair of the Senate Air Force Caucus, I’ve toured several of our nation’s Air Force facilities. Most recently, I led a delegation of four of my Senate colleagues to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. This important military installation houses a broad range of Air Force and Department of Defense activities including research and development of a cyberspace force.

I am proud to support the dedicated men and women whose service and sacrifice make our country safer. I will continue to be a champion of the needs of our Airmen and women to ensure our Air Force remains the strongest in the world.