TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – As warm weather returns to California, it seems as though everyone is making their way here, including Air Mobility Command leadership.
The commander and command chief of Travis Air Force Base’s major command, Gen. Maryanne Miller and Chief Master Sgt. Terrence Greene toured the base April 15 through 17 as part of an effort to highlight the relationship AMC has with its bases’ Airmen while also working to inspire innovative efforts among its respective squadrons.
Formerly the commander of Travis’ 349th AMW, Miller knows the value of Travis and its Airmen with respect to the Air Force’s mobility mission.
“Every Airman matters,” she said. “From the loadmasters to the band, we depend on every one to accomplish our mission. From the Airmen who’ve been in for 20-odd years, to the fresh-faced recruits off the bus from technical school, there’s a great congruity among those in our force who every day, both supplement and contribute to the missions of those around them.”
Missions, she said, that are perpetuated not by the advancements of corresponding industries in the private sector, but in the ingenuity and bold ideas of Airmen.
“To rely solely on private industries for our innovation and continued dominance in our warfighter domains, is to fail,” she said. “There is not only a demand for Airmen-created advancements, but a necessity for them.”
The AMC leadership’s visit to the base, which included leadership-guided tours of Travis’ 34 units and a 30-foot rappel down the face of a building thanks to the 60th Civil Engineer Squadron, comes on the heels of 18th Air Force leadership visiting the base in March. A common thread of the two visits was a Travis hallmark: innovation.
“You know, it’s easy to see us foot-stomping innovation and say ‘Yeah, ok, and what are you going to be foot-stomping next week?’ I get that,” said Greene. “But the need for smarter, more efficient ways of doing things represents an evolution in our force that verges on an existential requirement in our continued fight to stay the world’s greatest Air Force—and make no mistake, it is a fight.”
In 2016, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, “Air superiority is not an American birthright. It has to be fought for and maintained.”
Such was the theme of AMC’s visit; a sort of acknowledgment and critique of Travis’ role in the greater machinations of the Air Force’s fight for dominance in contested environment.
The last 20 years have been devoted to fighting one kind of fight, said Greene.
“And while we’ve been kicking ass, other military superpowers have been watching and studying us. These are forces who have GPS-guided missile systems and have seen enough of the failures our enemies have made in the Middle East so as to never make them.”
While these foreign powers may have benefitted from their time outside the fray, Greene made the argument that the Air Force has only become stronger because of its time in it.
“It’s easy to punch numbers or run simulations,” he said. “… but, there’s nothing that can substitute the experience and knowledge gained during real-world scenarios. It’s that difference that has, in a major way, caused our potential adversaries to see us as a force not to mess with.”
“Train the way you fight,” is an idea drilled into the minds of Airmen as early as basic training. And as professional boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
It’s Miller and Greene’s expectation that the Air Force of the future be one that not only survives in a contested environment, but thrives in it. Investing in the mutualistic relationship that exists between staying the world’s greatest Air Force and constructing the means of staying so is a big part of that.
“Innovation and readiness have to be seen as two sides of the same coin,” said Miller. “One can’t exist without the other. A big thing we can do as leaders is simply empower Airmen to vocalize the problems they face while also giving them the confidence and means to solve them, making this force stronger because of it.
“Many of our Airmen already join with a wealth of knowledge and experience in different disciplines of thought—it’s really only a matter of unleashing them. If it’s something that benefits their workplace, it’s our responsibility to package and proliferate that throughout the larger Air Force, not because of some big ‘A’ Air Force buzzword, but because to do so is crucial to keeping our advantage over our adversaries.”