A generational trust: Preparing Airmen for the future
By Col. Bill Denham, 14th Flying Training Wing Vice Commander
/ Published February 04, 2019
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- In the Air Force, we often talk about how airpower is a team sport. Completely true. I like to add that airpower is also a family business – without the support of our families, no Air Force member can get the job done. Furthermore, the Air Force operates as a family by taking care of its own and forging close-knit bonds of friendship that last a lifetime. I want to add a third element for you to consider; airpower is not only a team sport and family business, but also a generational trust.
A generational trust means that all Airmen today stand on the shoulders of the Airmen that preceded us. One of my favorite examples is how the lessons from aerial combat over Vietnam affected future generations.
The fighter pilots who fought in the skies of Vietnam were equipped with aircraft, namely the F-4 and F-105, which were not designed for the role of air superiority and therefore at a disadvantage when entering a turning fight with the more nimble MiG-21. These events fed the development of the F-15 Eagle as a no-compromise air superiority fighter, designed and built according to the philosophy of “not a pound for air-to-ground.”
In the next war that required air-to-air combat, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, U.S. Air Force F-15s scored 34 kills without suffering a single loss. That level of combat dominance was possible not only because of an exceptional aircraft, but primarily because of the lessons learned, the tactics developed, and the countless hours of briefing, flying, and debriefing that took place between the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. Think about the fact that none of the fighter pilots who scored kills in Desert Storm had ever flown in combat, and certainly had no experience from Vietnam.
How did they learn to be so lethal? The most important factor was that the Airmen from Vietnam ensured the next generation was ready to prevail. A generational trust.
What about you? Do you recognize the fact that you, regardless of your specialty or job at Columbus, are part of a long blue line that always has the implied task of preparing the next generation to prevail, no matter the location or intensity of the conflict? All of our attitudes, words, and actions matter on a daily basis. Each and every one of us are truly part of something much bigger than ourselves. Every combat sortie and every weapon employed all around the globe carry a little of all of us. The mighty sword of airpower our nation wields is only sharpened by the proper training of the next generation – across all the specialties.
As a young F-15 pilot, I recall hearing the old Eagle guys recount the lessons they had learned from Vietnam-era fighter pilots. Now I am that old guy, trying to pass on what lessons I have. May it always be said of Team BLAZE that we prize the opportunity to mentor the next generation – the future of airpower for the U.S. and its allies depends on it!