Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 3 of the 2010 Air and Space Conference

First Lieutenant Matthew Schneider reported on his experience sitting in many of the sessions during this year's Air and Space Conference. He provided highlights and summaries, as well as what he personally took away from a few of the sessions.

National Reconnaissance Office Update:

USAF Retired General Bruce Carlson spoke Monday on the needs for an improvement to the NRO. Due to the nature of their mission, General Carlson could not dive into some specific details; however, he did mention one key area for improvement. That area is focused on the establishment of basically an NRO force. Currently, the NRO borrows all of its personnel from different services and groups, making it difficult for General Carlson to keep a Program Manager on board for an entire project. By establishing a group of personnel that are permanently assigned to the NRO, he can use those persons to establish some long-term continuity and better work with AFPC and other similar organizations to keep the NRO running smoothly and efficiently.

Air Force Special Operations Command:

General Wurster spoke of the need to modernize the SOC community. Many of the aircraft and personnel in AFSOC are stressed beyond what was originally intended for them and it is becoming quite apparent. Of his 600 combat personnel, more than ten percent have purple hearts – a remarkable percentage. Of that same group, the majority of those injuries are not IED related, but from direct gunfire. General Wurster also commented that his aircraft are under similar fire and are rapidly decaying. Because of other setbacks in his fleet, he has even had to use AFSOC tankers for combat-related roles to fill gaps left by an aging and unreliable fleet. Key concerns are modernization and the establishment of personnel that are being allotted the proper amount of rest between combat deployments. However, despite these being his primary concerns, General Wurster was sure to point out that his airmen are ready to go back to the fight whenever they are called upon or needed, regardless of personal condition; AFSOC personnel exemplifies the concept of service before self.

NATO Transformation:

General Japp Willemse, from the Netherlands, spoke about the issues facing NATO in the past few years and to come. The concerns are similar to those of the rest of the Air Force in regards to manpower and budget. NATO particularly has a difficulty in managing budget due to the fact that each individual country has its own military forces and rather gives them for NATO operations as a loan more or less. There was also discussion about the disbandment of the US Joint Commands. Although General Willemse discussed some concern for the NATO communication with US forces, he commented that nearly 50% of his communications are already outside Joint Commands, and therefore an adaptation to this new way of thinking will only minutely affect NATO operations.

Medal of Honor Recipients:

The panel of the three Medal of Honor recipients was really remarkable. Colonels Day, Jackson and Thorsness spoke about leadership, their experiences in the Air Force and other topics as well. One of the most interesting segments was the discussion on leadership. Col. George “Bud” Day was the one who I think said it best. In order to be a leader, you must have “Integrity,” he said. Integrity in not only what you say, but in your actions as well. The next piece crucial to a good leader was “Service Before Self.” He spoke about the need to sacrifice and to ensure that the people in your organization come first. Keeping that in mind will establish their loyalty in you as their leader, he explained. The last piece was “Excellence.” Instilling the idea that leadership is really the essence of the Core Values could be seen as enlightening for young airmen who are trying to compile leadership methods, finally realizing it comes from living your life as any Airman should.

Four-Star Forum:

Once again this year, General Dunn asked some tough questions of the panel comprised of four-star generals. One in particular was in regards to the decrease in budget and looking to save money where ever possible. Nearly every leader of the AF came up with the same solution: Don’t sacrifice the people, don’t sacrifice the mission. Those two pieces are what we need to fight wars. There are ways to find savings in the Air Force, but “nickel and diming” our personnel and airmen is NOT the way to do it. Also, sacrificing the iron, the tools that our airmen need to finish the fight successfully, cannot be an option. Train our people right, give them the tools they need to get the job done (and) look for efficiencies, but look after the airmen, they agreed.

No comments: