SHREVEPORT, La. | The 2017 Air Force Global Strike Command Innovation and Technology Symposium concluded today at the Shreveport Convention Center with a focus on leadership and the Airmen who make the mission happen.
Former Command Senior Enlisted Leader to U.S. Strategic Command, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Alston, kicked off the day talking about the importance of leadership and getting to know the people you are leading.
“The only reason why we enjoy the freedoms we enjoy in our great nation is because of you,” he said. “You are leaders, and leadership is the ability of someone to influence someone else to accomplish a mission, but you have to understand who it is you’re trying to influence.”
Part of that is learning about how the younger generations operate, and how they communicate, Alston said.
“Your credibility lies with your ability to keep up with the change in times,” he said. “You have to be well versed on what’s going on, and if you’re not mindful that the next generation is going to replace us, you’re going to fail. A leader is someone who is able to adapt.”
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, former Command Chief Master Sgt. at Air Education and Training Command, furthered that topic by talking about the warrior ethos.
“Ethos is the fundamental character of something. It’s the way we live, our culture, the things we will fight for, the things we will die for,” he said. “What you put in the uniform is more important than putting on the uniform.”
As an Airman who self-admittedly started off on the wrong foot, yet eventually achieved the highest enlisted rank, Tapia said sometimes even Airmen who seem hopeless deserve a second chance. He got that second chance from one person – a commander who believed he was worth saving – and Tapia made a promise to his commander that he would never regret that decision.
“Integrity tastes sour coming back up,” he said. “So be grateful for second chances, and for first ones as well…. Whatever is given to you, pay back with interest.”
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Roger W. Burg gave the attendees a perspective on ICBM heritage. Burg is a former missileer who served before retirement as the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, for North American Air Defense Command and the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Defense Command.
“What is ICBM heritage?” he asked. “It is not about the technology at all. It’s about the people. ICBMs are impressive, but they are a machine. Without people they really don’t do much. With the right people, they’re the most impressive weapons on the face of the planet.”
Burg also recognized that without industry partners who build the weapon systems, the Air Force would be nothing.
“Someone built the ICBM for us. We need to remember that our defense industry is the best in the world, and they built us a great machine,” he said. “This is your heritage, but it’s the people who make them tick, and there are a lot of young Airmen, and a few old ones, who keep this system viable and working.”
The symposium concluded with a keynote speech by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, who opened with a history of General Bernard Adolph Schriever, the father of modern ballistic missiles.
“The missiles his teams developed helped provide strategic nuclear deterrence throughout the Cold War,” Wilson said. “Today, the President, and Secretary of Defense Mattis have full confidence in all of you to do the same, so that on our worst day, Global Strike Command can provide the nation unmatched global power under all conditions, and without fail.”
Wilson told the Airmen of Air Force Global Strike Command that they have an awesome responsibility for the people of this nation, and competitions like Global Strike Challenge help sharpen their combat edge.
“Every other year you compete to see who is the best of the best,” Wilson said. “That’s kind of a competition for bragging rights I guess, but it’s not just about crew dogs in a bomb competition, this is the whole team, and that’s one of the reasons I like what you’re doing.”
She added that it’s not just about the loaders, the defenders, and the missileers.
“It’s also about knowing when you step out the door to go to combat, you’re doing it with some of the best Airmen in the world,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s knowing that we’re all in this together. We’re part of one team, because we’re Airmen.”
Wilson told the competitors as they celebrate the winners of the Global Strike Challenge during the scoreposting event, to remember something else.
“As you celebrate the competition, celebrate also the foundation of that competition, which is being a values driven organization, committed to excellence, and founded on integrity,” she said.
Wilson concluded by telling her Airmen what she expects of them in the future.
“I expect you to stay values driven. I expect you to stay mission focused, and I expect you be people oriented,” she said. “If each one of you will do that every day, the United States Air Force will continue to be the keeper of safety for the world, and the best Air Force in the world.”
The two-day symposium was part of the culmination of Global Strike Challenge, a competitive event where the top security forces, maintainers, missile, bomber and helicopter crews are recognized as the "best of the best" in their specialties. Competition events took place throughout the summer back at the Airmen’s home bases, and teams from AFGSC's nine wings, as well as competitors from the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and other mission and industry partners, participated in the culminating events.