It’s in good hands

GOODFELLOW AFB, Texas -- Where is my Air Force going? What are we doing? What are these young people thinking? How do I reach them? These are all questions that in the last few years I have heard in numerous conversations from various locations from top leadership down. My answer to them is, don't worry...it's in good hands.

Throughout Air Force history previous leadership had the same conversations. In World War I, the Army Department talked about how these young "aviation enthusiasts" were dreaming. What in the world could they be thinking...an airplane supporting the war effort! HA. However, there were folks who believed in their people and stated, "They have a dream of making this work...let them follow it."

It was the same in World War II with numerous examples to cite, however two major ones come to mind. The first example are the Tuskegee Airmen. At that time, a group of bold and brave men took the challenge to pave the way for equal rights in the armed services. Even though they sent them to a back woods training facility and gave them second rate equipment, they proved all doubters wrong during the war. Afterwards, they were cited as never losing a bomber to enemy fire, when they escorted them. Bomber pilots were asking for the Tuskegee Airmen to escort them, as they knew they would be protected. They knew they were in good hands

The second example from World War II is the high altitude daylight precision bombing. Going into enemy territory during daylight hours was ludicrous and some senior leaders at the time thought it was suicidal. However, we trained our men to be thinkers, outside the box, and to find new and better ways to attack the enemy and bring them to their knees. Guess what... it worked. Why? Because our Air Corps was in good hands.

Then came the following conflicts, Korea and Vietnam, as we pushed back Communism. Folks thought the idea of a jet fighter/bomber aircraft was insane. However, a group of forward young thinkers we had trained to take our places thought it was the right way to go and pushed the envelopes of jet flight. As a matter of fact, the B-52 was originally laid out on a cocktail napkin. These folks had been mentored and given the chance, pushed hard and took it to the next level. We trained and put our best into them. Names like John Levitow, George "Bud" Day, Steve Ritchie, Leo Thorsness come to mind. I am sure some of the leaders at the time thought these folks were hot dogs. However, the senior leaders trained them to be better than they were and when it was time...they left the Air Force in good hands.

Where are we today? Since the end of the Vietnam War we have been in numerous conflicts and currently are a nation at war fighting terrorism around the globe. This generation has provided some of the greatest leaders our nation has ever known. They have stepped up to the plate and carried the torch. Senior leaders, my question is this...are we properly training, leading, and mentoring our future leaders to take over the Air Force when we hang up the hat? My answer is yes.

My challenge to the young officers/NCO's/Airmen...learn from your leaders and take on those roles whenever you can. Grab hold of some of these leaders and pick their brains. You will be in the senior leadership role faster than you can ever imagine and time will not wait on you to prepare. It is on your shoulders to pick up the torch and carry it forward...never take that load lightly or with acquiescence. It is a big load...get over it and lead. Don't be afraid to take risks...we didn't get where we are by sitting on the sidelines. We have trained you well and now it is your time to step up.

If we look past the immediate "fires" and actively seek out every opportunity for our folks to take the reins and roles of preparing our Air Force, I know our Air Force will remain the most respected and feared Air Force in the world.

Some say the early generations of our nation's defense were the greatest generations. I beg to differ, I walk around Goodfellow and see new Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and civilians proudly representing their service branches, but more importantly, our Nation. More than that, I see the greatest generation getting ready to explode with things we could never imagine, carrying us well into the future. It is amazing to me how we train our folks to take our places without ever realizing it and yet, the mission never misses a beat. I believe, when we all hang up our uniform the final time, and we all will sooner than we expect, we can say with a clean conscience, we've done our part... "It's in good hands."