Way ahead includes back to basics approach for AF

AIR FORCE DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON -- Senior Air Force leaders gathered right here at Bolling Air Force Base to discuss the strategic way ahead for our Air Force Aug. 27. 

"The summit allows us to identify issues that need senior leader review and decide on matters affecting the entire Air Force," according to Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, 

One of the outcomes from the summit included a refined Air Force mission statement which reads, "the mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace." To guide us, the Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz directed a "back to basics" approach to execute our Air Force core mission sets. 

As a young B-52 co-pilot stationed at Blytheville Air Force Base, Ark., in the height of the Cold War, we would execute countless simulated low-level bomb runs over the heartland of America. The aircraft commander maintained the proper airspeed and altitude parameters. The co-pilot gave visual updates. The radar navigator centered on the right offset aim points. The navigator called time and heading. And, the electronic warfare officer and gunner defended the aircraft from all surface to air and fighter threats. 

Each time, we would strive for a "shack" with bombs directly on target. Once we came off target, we would receive our "scores" from a ground-based site, "hot wash" lessons learned and then enter a "racetrack" route to execute the same bomb run. We would do this over and over again to ingrain the procedures. We embodied the adage of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, "Practice does not make perfect only perfect practice makes perfect." 

Later in my career, falling back on these training principles served me well in the skies over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom as we dropped bombs on terrorist strongholds and Taliban positions in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. 

Certainly, our base namesake, Colonel Raynal C. Bolling gave us an extraordinary example of character, courage and commitment to emulate. Throughout the years, we continually built upon our proud heritage. Today, the core mission of the 11th Wing to provide superior customer service, precise musical and ceremonial engagement and expeditionary response are directly aligned with the refined Air Force mission statement and vision for the future. 

We display character. We execute musical and ceremonial engagement with precision and reliability to give a final and lasting tribute to our fallen heroes on the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. We show courage. Every day we actively engage in training, equipping and deploying expeditionary combat support forces for homeland operations and to service our air and space expeditionary forces. In fact, at this very hour, we have 81 Airmen from across the 11th Wing serving in harm's way taking the fight to the enemy. We demonstrate a commitment to excellence. We do this every day as we provide full spectrum administrative support and superior customer service to more than 34,000 Air Force members and their families in the National Capital Region and worldwide. 

The mission is demanding and you accomplish it with distinction. Sustaining it requires our constant vigilance and dedication. As famed Paul "Bear" Bryant, Alabama football coach said, "Little things make the difference. Everyone is prepared in big things, but only winners perfect the little things." 

As we get "back to basics" it is critical that each Airmen internalize their contribution to the mission. The most valuable resource in the Air Force is our people. Are you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready to execute your role? Leaders, are you providing your Airmen with the proper training, resources, decision-making tools and empowerment to get the mission accomplished? The giants of our Bolling past - Henry "Hap" Arnold, Tooey Spaatz and Billy Mitchell are looking down on us with great pride, but we are counting on you to build upon their legacy and forge our own history.