An Airman’s Most Important Asset?

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
One of our 82 TRW Balanced Scorecard Objectives is to "Permeate training with Air Force culture and values." It implies that our training program should impart more than just technical skills but should also reinforce the qualities of character and leadership necessary for success in our Air Force. That objective applies to every trainee we teach across both our wings and even to our permanent party population.

I saw that objective in action this week during the visit of Lt Gen Leo Marquez , USAF (ret), to our base. Gen Marquez is legendary in our Air Force, particularly in the maintenance and logistics career field. Gen Marquez retired in 1987 as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Engineering. His career spanned the Vietnam and Cold War eras where he gained a reputation as an innovative leader who made things happen. When it comes to Air Force maintenance and logistics, Gen Marquez is "The Man." Period. In fact, the highest honor a maintainer can achieve today is to be a wing's nominee for the "Marquez Award." We're fortunate that Gen Marquez spent the better part of this week visiting Sheppard where he spoke to hundreds of future Air Force maintainers in training. I'm guessing that those of you who heard him felt lucky to be there.

I, along with a few of our commanders, had dinner with Gen Marquez Tuesday night. We were all thoroughly entertained by his stories, spanning his experience as a CGO fighter pilot in Vietnam to a 3-star general and close advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. His stories were funny and captivating and delivered with passion and purpose. As I listened to the dozens of tales he told, I was struck by a few common themes--themes that I would argue are an important part of today's "Air Force culture and values." Examples include: fighting passionately for the right answer versus the expedient one; making decisions based on facts not anecdotes; listening to and empowering those who work for us; refusing to let "tribal" interests override Air Force interests; integrity first!!; tireless dedication to process and product improvement; taking care of the people; eliminating wasteful activities, etc., etc.

As I listened to Gen Marquez, I also realized that many of our "new" transformational and AFSO21 initiatives, in reality, reflect a continuing theme of innovation and empowerment that have been part and parcel to our Air Force since the earliest days of Billy Mitchell. As Airmen, our most important asset is that God-given organ that rests between our ears. Gen Marquez reinforced that Tuesday night, when he told us as Airmen, when confronted with a problem, the first tool we should reach for should not be money, manpower, or materiel, but instead--our brains. Innovative, three-dimensional thinking is what has always set Airmen apart. That's a part of our Air Force culture we need to continue to foster.

Use your brain to look for ways in your shops, flights, classrooms, offices, and cockpits for ways you, and your people, can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our training and support operations. That's a lesson from Gen Leo Marquez. That's a lesson for Airmen everywhere.

Thanks Team Sheppard for reading. We're 13 days into the 101 Critical Days of Summer and remain mishap-free. Keep that trend going as you enjoy the weekend!