COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Maj. Gen. James P. Scanlan, Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, spoke to graduates during Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 18-05’s graduation Feb. 16 at the Kaye Auditorium here.
Scanlan talked to the Air Force’s 20 newest aviators about their role as not just a pilot, but as an officer and leader in the Air Force.
“When you are out there in your flying units, the focus will be on you [not just as pilots],” Scanlan said. “Our Airmen will look to you as leaders. Why? Because you are pilots.”
Scanlan said that the new pilots have already demonstrated skills of leaders. He said that the pilots are resourceful, they are problem-solvers and when faced with challenges they pick the best course of action and execute it.
Scanlan then gave an example about the caliber of enlisted Airmen the pilots will be leading.
The story was about a mission to rescue American citizens with three CV-22 Ospreys in South Sudan. Scanlan said aboard the lead aircraft was Tech. Sgt. Christopher Nin, a CV-22 Osprey special missions aviator.
The three Ospreys approached the landing zone and started taking effective surface-to-air fire. All three aircraft were critically damaged, leaving the lead Osprey with the most damaged having three ruptured fuel tanks, the main hydraulic system lost and multiple casualties aboard, including three critically injured Navy SEALs. Nin was juggling between manually extending the refueling probe and aiding the medic aboard the plane.
On the ground in Entebbe, Uganda, a C-17 Globemaster III was preparing to take off. Aboard the C-17 was Senior Airman Cody Nun͂ez, a loadmaster with the 21st Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, who had only been in country for two weeks.
The C-17 crew was told to stop takeoff and dump some of its cargo to make room for the critically injured SEALs. The crew could see the three Ospreys flying in with smoke trailing their path.
An Army Special Forces captain gave Nun͂ez two choices which were both against regulations. Nun͂ez politely declined and told the captain that he and his team could figure it out.
Within minutes Nun͂ez and his team resituated the cargo and were able to accommodate the wounded and the C-17 took off. While in the air, one of the SEALs flatlined and Nun͂ez provided aid with direction from the in-flight medics.
“Those three SEALs survived because of the professionalism and dedication of those two Airmen, Airmen you will lead,” Scanlan said. “Airmen will place their trust and confidence in you as leaders.”
Scanlan began to wrap up his speech by sharing a couple of his thoughts about how to be a successful leader. His first point was the pilot’s must earn the trust of those they’ll be working with. Another point he mentioned was “it is ok that you may not always have the answer.
“As a leader you have to remain confident but humble,” Scanlan said. “Realize that you are a part of something bigger than yourself.”