Past and present come together at 18th Air Force conference

By 18th Air Force PAO on June 29, 2011

Commanders and enlisted leaders gathered here to discuss principles for dealing with the 18th Air Force's most pressing issues during the command's annual Commanders and Command Chiefs Conference, June 22-24.

The theme of this year's conference was "heritage and resiliency", underscoring the importance of considering the hard-won lessons of past mobility leaders in dealing with modern challenges. In particular, Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, 18th Air Force Commander, noted that the conference provided a venue for applying those lessons toward create a command staffing structure "that identifies issues, sets priorities, and sets up business rules to produce solutions for all of us."

As a basis for the group discussions and workshops that made up the conference, commanders and command chiefs were asked to read "Over the Hump" by the late Lt. Gen. William Tunner, widely recognized as the Air Force's "outstanding authority" on airlift. As one of the original architects of the Air Force's transport agencies, General Tunner commanded the World War II "Hump" operation and the Berlin and Korean airlifts. In addition to the historical insights derived from General Tunner's book, conference attendees also had the opportunity for firsthand discussion with another mobility pioneer, Col. Earl Young, the 97-year old first commander of the 18th Air Force (1951), who offered his own thoughts on the components of resiliency.

"Resiliency is about energy, incentive, belief, and confidence," Colonel Young said. "You have to have the energy to approach every task with enthusiasm and excitement. You also need the incentive of understanding why what you are doing is important. More than understanding, you also have to believe in what you are doing. And finally, to be truly resilient, you need the support and confidence of your leaders."

Colonel Young was joined by three other former 18th Air Force commanders; Lt. Gen. William Welser III (2003-2005), Maj. Gen. James Hawkins (2005-2008), and Maj. Gen. Winfield W. Scott III (2008-2009), all of whom offered their own unique perspectives on both individual and organizational resiliency.

"Continue to be innovative. Continue to think forward. Don't let the past define you and move forward as a team," said General Welser.

"Prepare, grow, and train your successor because he or she is right there behind you," added General Hawkins. "Put the time and emphasis into it, because that is resiliency."

General Scott reiterated Colonel Young's observations, noting that the command could not be successful if "our wing commanders didn't have the energy, the confidence, and support of leadership." He also emphasized the importance of taking care of oneself "physically and spiritually" adding that it was "most important [to] take care of your family - your Airmen and your personal family."

In addition to group discussion and the opportunity to hear the perspectives of former 18th Air Force commanders, conference attendees also participated in a formal Heritage Dinner at the Air Mobility Command Museum, further embodying the conference's theme. Amidst a variety of displays honoring AMC's heritage, attendees offered toasts recognizing the command's past accomplishments as well as those of its pioneers like Colonel Young.

"The basic issues back then are the basic issues we face today," said Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, 18th Air Force Commander. "Take care of your people. Set high standards. Get smart, analytical people to figure out what the real problems are. Identify the problems. Look at them from multiple perspectives. Insist on excellence. And know that you are always answering the call and setting the conditions for others to prevail."