Kim and I left Charlotte, North Carolina 33 years ago and weve dreamed about the day we would return. With my retirement in August, that day is rapidly approaching with much anticipation. That anticipation is not fueled by dissatisfaction with every place weve lived since, but because we are returning to our families. I recently had the opportunity to reflect on what 33 years of change looks like. Result: todays Air Force is much better than the one I joined.
I attribute some of the improvements to technology. V-files and grease boards were the preferred means of communication in the 80s. Car phones were only in James Bond movies and in presidential limousines. Computers, e-mails, Skype and smart phones are the rage today. There is no doubt technology has changed how we work. However, I dont think it has changed what we do supporting and answering this Nations call to serve.
I dont know that our Airmen were much different in those days. They were driven by character, integrity and sacrifice. They sparked of innovation. They strived for perfection and were satisfied with nothing less than excellence.
I remember an air of no-nonsense, seriousness; maybe it came from our Vietnam vets in the squadrons. When they talked, young pups like me listened! Veterans like Brig. Gen. (retired) Jim Sehorn, a former 446th Airlift Wing commander who recently returned to McChord to talk to our Airmen.
Hed spent 56 months in the Hanoi Hilton. Its Airmen like him on whose shoulders we stand today. Id offer that while the faces and names have changed, our Airmen havent. Someday you will be talking to your young pups, telling them why they need to do it by-the-book.
The drive, dedication and professionalism of our Airmen are where it was 30-plus years ago.
We have asked our Airmen to do more. This may be driven by being a smaller Air Force. Many Airmen now must have working knowledge that extends far beyond their duty specialty. We currently measure tolerances by hundredths or thousandths of points. We talk about processes more. We expect leadership to talk and listen rather than just tell and order. Leadership works hard at capturing the hearts of our Airmen and not just their bodies, and that is a good thing! Airmen have risen to the challenge.
Ive recently been asked, What kept you awake. The single thing that has worried me for most of the past 33 years has been my desire to not let Airmen down. You are an amazing group of total force Airmen. You deserve the very best this Nation has to offer, including leadership, equipment and training. Ive thought often about this, and hopefully I have never done anything less than meet your standards and expectations.
And with that, Kim and I wish each of you fair skies and favorable winds. We will miss each of you dearly. You and your families will remain in our prayers. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this great team.