Keeping Us 'Technically the Best'

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
Occasionally I overhear a comment or detect a sentiment here at Sheppard that goes something like this: "we're just a training base" or "we're not operational" or "we're not the tip of the spear" or "I can't wait to get back out into the field." Mind you, I don't hear this very often . . . just once in a while. And although I understand the attraction to "be operational," I think these comments sometimes stem from a failure to reflect on the absolute importance of what we do here at Sheppard.

So how important is our mission here at Team Sheppard? In my humble opinion, Sheppard AFB is the United States Air Force's most vital training operation. The 82d Training Wing produces over half of the USAF's tech training graduates here at Sheppard and at our 60 detachments and operating locations--that equates to about 70,000 graduates per year! Col Dave Petersen and his 80th Flying Training Wing provide NATO's only pilot training program and the USAF's biggest "white jet" training operation. Simply put, Sheppard provides the training foundation of much of the combat power of the United Sates Air Force--about 1-3 years into the future. In other words, if you want to know what our AF will look like in 2009, look in our classrooms, laboratories, and flight lines. How well we do our mission directly impacts the quality of our future Air Force.

If you're still not a believer, imagine what would happen if we closed our doors for a year? Imagine no newly-trained aircraft mechanics, bomb loaders, or munitions specialists. No new aircraft maintenance officers, utilities specialists, plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists, or telecommunications technicians. No new medical technicians of any kind, health service administrators, or medical equipment technicians. No new pilots for our NATO alliance? Where would our Air Force(s) be without our graduates?

Of course, our Air Force could not function without our Sheppard training programs and there is no danger of closing our doors. However, what we must also realize that any change (good or bad) in the effectiveness and efficiency of our training mission will have an enormous impact on our Air Force. In economic terms, we are a force multiplier for our future Air Force. That means every improvement an instructor makes in a classroom or cockpit, every technological enhancement we inject into a course, every improvement in support and services we provide our trainee population, will positively impact our Air Force in a big, big way.

So I urge you all, whether you're directly involved in training, or supporting those who do, to rededicate yourselves to continually improving the quality and efficiency of our training operation. Ensure our support and services to our trainee population are always world class. Keep us "Technically the Best" at our training mission and work hard to ensure the first impression of the Air Force that our graduates receive is a fantastic one.