One Airman at a Time: new AFDW commander seeks to lead, listen in person

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs
As the new commander of Air Force District of Washington, Maj. Gen. Ricky N. Rupp has spent has spent his first month focused on getting know the AFDW's Airmen and civilians -- face to face.

AFDW’s charge to organize, train, equip, and support approximately 33,000 Air Force military and civilian members across 2,000 elements in more than 500 locations within 108 countries calls not only for leadership, but, as Rupp explains, presence.

“You have to realize that the movie has been playing for a while before you got here and there are outstanding Airmen, civilians, contractors, and mission partners, all doing tremendous work,” Rupp said. “When you have groups of Airmen around the world, you need to get to where they work, where they gather, and strive to make a connection – one Airman at a time, one civilian at a time.”

Rupp’s immersion briefings with ceremonial, contingency, medical and partner organizations are in full swing. The general noted his initial focus is to observe, listen, and offer full support to sustain the esprit-de-corps, innovation, excellence, and diversity for which AFDW is known.

World events will often dictate changes in mission and operations tempo, but Rupp asserts that some things are, and should remain, constant.

“It’s a priority to develop the next generation of Airmen, whether they’re young Airmen, NCOs, young officers, civilians, or contractors we rely on day-to-day,” he said. “You need to ask yourself, ‘have things really changed over the years, or has my perspective changed?’”

Rupp views his AFDW commander position as an avenue to connect with Airmen and civilians in a modern, data-driven culture where social media greatly influences behavior and communication.

“The younger generation is value programmed a little differently than my generation, but some of the basics remain the same,” Rupp asserts. “They want leaders to care about them and what they are doing; they want leaders to be invested in their effort.’”

Rupp noted the importance of demonstrating the investment in Airmen and civilians through a continuum of learning and professional development. 
“As leaders, we need to prepare Airmen to take charge after ensuring they have all the training, equipment, and skill set tools they need to be joint partners in the fight.”

These joint mission partner relationships and collaborations, Rupp believes, can be leveraged to develop a creative learning culture, which is among the main goals he has set for AFDW over the next two years.

“I’m confident in AFDW’s teamwork in defining and honing our contingency operation responses, improving our unit readiness, and optimizing our warfighting capability,” the general said. “AFDW recognizes the need to lean forward and prepare for future combat and competition, and I’m excited about the level of pride and expertise I have seen while executing such diverse mission sets.”

A Texas native, Rupp considers empowerment and trust to be hallmarks of his leadership style.

“Airmen are the experts in their areas and often have great new ideas which can optimize abilities while removing inefficiencies – and this leads to greater mission accomplishment,” Rupp explained. “As a leader, my job is to listen to the team and eliminate obstacles to clear a path to success in building a solid foundation for Airmen and civilians, now and in the future.”

Adorning Rupp’s office wall are photos of sports leaders he admires, among them the late Tom Landry, the Dallas Cowboys’ original football coach, a position he held for 29 seasons.

“Those are some pretty good coaches that led some pretty good teams, and they’ve got leadership styles that you aspire to,” Rupp said. “They demanded excellence from their folks, and led with discipline, teamwork and preparation.”

On Rupp’s team is his wife, Charlotte, who he said has found ways over the years to connect with young Airmen and their families. “It’s a big Air Force, so Charlotte and try to connect with one family at a time, one Airman at a time.”

Ultimately, Rupp said he is eager to embrace the challenges associated with executing AFDW’s mission and support its Airmen, civilians, and mission partners around the globe.

“This calling takes tremendous effort, and I am impressed with the professionalism and excellence I have seen thus far in taking on such monumental tasks,” Rupp said. “Together, we are stronger than we could ever be as individuals.”