AFA perspective: We are the masters of our own fate

Staff Sgt. McKay

Staff Sgt. McKay

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2018 Air Force Association’s Air Space and Cyber Conference, the premier event for defense and aerospace professionals which brought together key leaders throughout the Air Force to discuss the way ahead in multi-domain warfighting.

This opportunity has opened my eyes as a junior noncommissioned officer to the bigger strategic picture of our military. This experience allowed me to grow and develop a better understanding of our senior leader’s vision of multi-domain warfare.

I wanted to bring this new found knowledge back to units at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado and share a few of my favorite speeches from the conference.

Kicking off day-one, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson spoke on “the Air Force we need,” which proposed a 24 percent increase in force structure.

She detailed a proposal free of budgetary restraints that would increase the number of operational squadrons in the Air Force from 312 to 380 by 2030. With the space domain becoming a larger war fighting focus, the plan also included seven additional space operation squadrons, and an increase of 22 squadrons for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Wilson also spoke on the ongoing initiatives aimed to empower commanders by reducing the amount of Air Force publications and instructions. She announced more than 240 directives have been successfully rescinded. This number adds to the 212 publications that have already been updated, and the 309 directives in formal review. She briefly touched on the Management Internal Control Toolset by stating the Inspector General and Air Staff plan to cut more than 50 percent of mandatory checklists by November.

On day two of the conference, Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, provided an “Air Force Update,” stating we must “think big, start small and scale fast.”

Core themes of his speech included objectives to restore readiness, cost effectively modernize, drive innovations, develop exceptional leaders and strengthen our alliances. In order to return the focus back to our expeditionary roots, he emphasized we must begin by strengthening each echelon of command to contribute and lead multi-domain operations.

“Our goal is to deliver echelons of command that form together to present trained and ready air and space forces to combatant commanders who combine these echelons with joint and allied teammates to compete, deter and win,” Goldfein said.

Goldfein also shared the heartfelt and heroic stories of Medal of Honor recipient, Master Sgt. John Chapman, and said the photo of Chapman hanging in his office is a “reminder of the true gift of leadership and the obligation that we all have every day to be worthy of the honor of leading men and women like Chapman.”

On the final day, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright presented his highly anticipated speech “Taking Care of Airmen from the Ground Up.”

Speaking to a packed convention hall, he began by reciting the words of William Ernest Henley from the 1875 poem “Invictus.” The word invictus, which directly translates to undefeated, or unconquerable, became the main theme of his speech.

Wright emphasized we are all “masters of our own fate” and in order to become unconquerable, our Airmen must be well trained, well led, agile and resilient. He detailed that “no one escapes pain, fear, or suffering,” however, “from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage and from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience.”

Wright said resilience can be built over time, and encouraged members of the audience to find their purpose, develop a strong social network, embrace change, develop problem solving skills and take care of their mental, physical and spiritual health.

The AFA was filled with so many engaging speakers focused on multi-domain operations, and winning the fights to come. Additional keynote speakers included Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, our very own Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, a surprise visit from Vice President Mike Pence, and presentations from Jeff Bezos, Founder of Blue Origin and Founder and CEO of Amazon, as well as the SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell.

The AFA made me see that we all should be looking for the future opportunities to perform at peak performance and encourage others to do the same.

To view videos of the conference, visit www.afa.org.