General has sights set on improving Sheppard's mission

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, commander of the 82nd Training Wing, may not have a complete overhaul of Sheppard in mind, but he does have some ideas for tweaking the current system. 

"Brig. Gen. (James) Whitmore left me with an excellent wing and base, but we're going to work hard to make it even better," General Devereaux said. 

The commander plans to rely on his experience to help prepare the base for the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection, as well as some of the personnel and force shaping challenges ahead. 

General Devereaux said he has three primary focus areas: making Sheppard "technically the best," ensuring Sheppard always gives a "fantastic first impression," and providing Sheppard personnel with a "safe, secure and supportive" work environment. 

"I want to provide the absolute best training in the world for the trainees; it is important for them to have the skills needed for combat capability," said General Devereaux, elaborating on his "technically the best" goal. 

As far as first impressions, "Sheppard hosts thousands of new Airmen every year; we have the opportunity to form their opinion of their first real Air Force base," he said. "We must work hard to ensure our customer service facilities and newcomer processes are top notch, not only for the military and civilians, but especially for their families." 

As for what General Devereaux calls "the three S's - a safe, secure, supportive environment." 

"My job as a commander is to do what we can to keep people safe through creative, innovative safety programs. I want to foster a climate where people always treat each other with dignity and respect," he said. 

General Devereaux said he believes the many jobs he has held throughout his career have prepared him well for his new responsibility. During his career, he has been everything from student and instructor, to a pilot, a commander at several levels and even had involvement with Air Force international relations. 

"I've been a student in countless schools in the Air Force, so I can look at technical training from a student's perspective. I've also served as an instructor pilot for Air Training Command, so I've seen the educational process from both sides of the desk," the general said. "I've been a commander of a squadron, a group and a wing, each of which had a heavy aircraft maintenance component, so I am comfortable with overseeing our 'Aircraft Maintenance University.'

"My last job involved working for the Secretary of the Air Force as a director of regional affairs; I was responsible for managing our U.S. Air Force relationship with other air forces around the globe. I got a real appreciation for the importance of international training to building partnerships, which I believe will help me here," he said. 

The commander said he's confident Sheppard will be ready to face and conquer the challenges ahead, particularly those in the form of the approaching ORI and anticipated force reduction of approximately 40,000 personnel in Fiscal Year 2007. 

"I believe the wing will do very well on the ORI, and we'll work very hard in the days ahead to prepare. As the Air Force reshapes its force, Sheppard will be given a great opportunity to figure out how to make our process smarter, leaner and more efficient," General Devereaux said. "We'll be able to do more with less people, not by making them work harder, but by helping insure that we all work smarter." 

All in all, 82nd TRW's commander appears more than ready and even excited about the next two years. However, he said he does not see himself as infallible. 

"The best preparation for command is command. No one is ever fully prepared for any new job," he conceded. "That's what makes our jobs in the Air Force so challenging and rewarding. I feel like the roller coaster ride General Whitmore mentioned is already rolling; fortunately I have my seat belt fastened!"