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Leadership in a Changing Environment

Leadership in a Changing Environment

Remarks to the Command Chief Master Sergeants Conference, Bolling Air Force Base, D. C., April 26, 2003, by General John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff.

What a pleasure to be here today and what an exciting time to be wearing the uniform of our United States Air Force, and what a great opportunity to talk to the leadership that makes it all happen. That's what I want to focus on today.

The world we live in today is a world much different than any one of us ever would have predicted. Think back to about 1988 or 1989 and think of what the pundits were saying back then. By the end of the century we were going to be a second-rate economy, remember that? Japan was going to be the leading economy in the world. And their vision of quality management was going to teach us all a lesson.

And who would have thought back in 1988 or 1989 that we would be at war in the summer of 1990 with a place called Iraq? Who could have predicted that we would be fighting in a place called Kosovo? Who could have pointed to it on a map? Who could have named two of the "Stans?" Who would have thought we'd be back in Iraq a little more than a decade later?

None of us would have predicted any of these things, just as none of us could have predicted any of these things. And who would have thought that our world would be dominated by terrorists who are not associated with traditional borders or traditional governments? Who would have thought we'd be up against people who just want to kill us because of who we are, because we have the right to decide for ourselves, because we vote, because we have free will, because we tolerate one another? But that's where we are today.

We know a lot more about the "Stans" than we ever wanted. We can all point to Kosovo on the map. We all have Saddam Hussein's picture emblazoned in our mind as well as Osama bin Laden's. We're having to compensate in ways that none of us ever thought we'd have to.

Back in those days we all remember how we used to get into our airplanes about once a year, go over to Germany, and spend about a month practicing recovering a Warsaw Pact invasion across the north German plain. We'd do that for about a month, then we'd come home and we'd go back to Red Flag and do some things. And home base was the way we thought about things. That's not the way we think about things now. It's different.

These people who want to kill us do so because of who we are. They want to fly airplanes into our buildings and kill us by the thousands, and if they could have killed not 3,000, if they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000 or 3 million, they would have.

Not while I'm in charge.

Who does America look to? They sit before me here today. They look at the people in uniform as the symbol of the pride and the strength of this country. You all have experienced it. You ride on the airplanes all the time. You wander around the airports. You walk in the streets downtown. What do they do? They come up and say thanks. "I don't know who you are. I don't know much about the military, but thank you for what you do." Is there anybody out there in the world that's got a better job than that? No.

And look what you're in charge of doing. You're in charge of developing the greatest airmen in the greatest Air Force on the planet. That's what you do. Is there anything more important than that? If there is, I don't know what it is. And that's the job of you who sit before me today.

Let's talk about this Air Force just a little bit. Let's talk about where we are and where we're going and what we need to be thinking about.

First of all let me say I'm very pleased. There are always things we can do better, and the good news is that people like you are always thinking about ways to do things better. I like to always preface these sort of remarks by standing up here and saying that guys like us sit around and spend a lot more time on what's wrong than what's right, because we're always thinking of the problems and how to fix them. And if you listen to us the wrong way, you walk out saying, "It's not as good as I thought it was." Well it is as good as you think it is, and don't you ever forget it.

Let me tell you, there is no human on the face of the earth that has our welfare more in his heart than our Secretary of the Air Force, Dr Jim Roche. We are truly blessed to have a guy who loves us, and I mean "loves us," as much as he does. And if his love is evident, you ought to see his wife's. Mrs. Diane Roche probably loves us more than Dr. Roche does -- she is so impressed with our United States Air Force. We need to make sure that we take every opportunity to let Dr. Roche know that we appreciate him, because he is doing us a great deal of service.

He's come up with three core competencies for our United States Air Force. He did this in a way that puts more focus on it than the core competencies we had before. It's good to talk about them for just a minute.

One of the ones he came up with was "technology to warfighting." In the United States Air Force we're good at this. We're all technology fiends -- we like that stuff. We're good at it. You put that technology out there in the field where it helps our warfighters, and we see great happenings all the time.

For example, you see this little critter we call the Predator out there. Now the Predator's not a high tech device. It's a propeller-driven airplane about the size of a Cessna 172. It's got the propeller in the back. It's got a snowmobile engine on it. It's got a little sensor ball in the front. We took that thing as a technology demonstrator and we started flying it around and it's really pretty good. One thing it did was stay airborne for 24 hours. That's good. You can stare at these guys for a long time in 24 hours. You can figure out what they're doing, where they're going, and when they go there you can kill them. That's pretty good.

And during the Kosovo War we said let's put a laser designator on that thing so we can actually point to something on the ground and guys can laser bomb. All the communities and stovepipes up there didn't like that. Well, we did it anyway.

Then we said let's put some Hellfire missiles on that thing. It worked out very, very well, but we had to fight the stovepipes along the way. But every time we did and we showed resounding success it was a good thing. We got the technology, and we started off with this little thing we called the Predator, and we put it out there in a way that it is now the thing that everybody wants. And it's doing a marvelous job for us around the world.

And I've got a lot of people asking me about this F/A-22. I get this question all the time: "You know General, you go off and you go up against Iraq and you go over Afghanistan and up against Mr. Milosevic and Serbia, and we wind up kicking everybody's butt all the time. Why do you need this fighter you call the F/A-22?"

You all need to know why we need that fighter, and I'm going to explain it to you. The Russians have never stopped building airplanes. They have a series of airplanes built by the Sukhoy Company that started in the mid '80s called the SU-27, and it raised itself up to the point now that they're building the SU-37. We get our hands on these airplanes from time to time and we go out and fly them. And when we do, we take our best captains with 1,000 hours or so in the F-15 or the F-16, and we put them inside this Russian-built airplane. We put them out in the desert and give them a couple of hours to practice, and then we put them up against our best guys flying the F-15, the F-16, the F-18 and the F-14. And our guys flying their airplanes beat our guys flying our airplanes every single time. Fortunately, when we go to war, it's their guys flying their airplane and we can beat them, and that's good.

But we shouldn't have to depend on that. The F/A-22 is as much better than those airplanes that are being built right now by the Russians as the F-15 was against the MiG-21 back in 1975 when we brought the F-15 on board. It's that good.

But it's not the air-to-air thing I worry so much about. It's the surface-to-air missiles I worry about because every Air Force in the world, and mark my word, every Air Force in the world, is trying to figure out how to beat our Air Force. Right now nobody's having much luck. But they're trying to figure it out, and one of the ways is with surface-to-air missiles. We see the next two or three generations of surface-to-air missiles coming along and we've got to pay some attention to them. The F/A-22 is the only thing out there with the combination of stealth and supercruise that can penetrate against those next two generations of surface-to-air missiles. Remember, we're buying this airplane for the next 25 years, not just for what's out there today.

As you know, the stealth airplanes we have today can only fly at night -- the F-117 and the B-2. They can't protect themselves. Somebody said of the F-117, "Here's a stealthy shape, now make it fly." Well, when they made it fly it didn't fly that well. The B-2's a little bit better, but neither one of them can defend themselves, so they have to fly in the middle of the night. Because stealth is the only thing they've got.

The F/A-22 says, "come on up here and give it a shot, buddy." Or, "Don't make me come down there!" So not only does it enable itself 24 hours a day, but it can take the F-117 and the B-2 in there as well. And we have this thing we call the small diameter bomb, and we put it inside the belly of the F/A-22 so it doesn't lose any of its stealth qualities. That small diameter bomb has wings that pop out and that thing will go out about 40 miles. So you're standing off tossing these little small diameter bombs out there taking care of that threat as you're on your way in there to help the Army guy out that's deep behind enemy lines, or the special operators, or whatever needs to be done. It's the only thing we have that does that.

And we have to remember that with all of this high tech information technology network-centric thinking, sometimes you've got to put the steel on the target to beat the enemy. It's the firepower in the end that counts. We can't lose sight of that. And when you think about it, the F/A-22 is the only thing that we would buy new in this decade that puts steel on target for any service. We can't lose sight of that fact.

Still, the networking piece is important. We see it over there in Iraq with the ability to spot a target. The first night of the war those F-117 pilots were awakened at zero-dark-thirty in the morning and heard, "Guess what? We've got a target for you." They jumped in their airplanes, and those tanker crews carried them all the way to Baghdad. We didn't know what the reaction of the Iraqis was going to be. We didn't know they were going to throw their hands up the first night and say, "We quit." But they did. Our guys put bombs on target in an unprecedently short amount of time given the technologies that we have to get the planning done and get the target information and the decisions made quickly to take advantage of those sorts of capabilities.

Technology and the airborne laser. Now you talk about miracles. This is about 13 consecutive and mutually exclusive miracles called the airborne laser. Think about a thing that can fly in the air, track a target with great fidelity, aim a laser beam at a target's fuel tank, and shoot a surface-to-surface missile from hundreds of miles away. Again, I'm a humble land grant college graduate from Paris, Texas, and they had to convince me that this thing would work, and they did. This thing is going to work.

Who does this? Our people.

And finally, speaking about technology -- I was at a dinner last night, and I was joined with General Richard Myers (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff), General Lester Lyles (Commander, Air Force Material Command), General Lance Lord (Commander, Air Force Space Command), and a few others. It was a meeting of the guys who built the space force for our Air Force -- General (retired) Bernard Schriever and the original group of people that created the original space program in the United States Air Force. They meet every year. It's called the "Old Timers Club." Many of them think this may be the last year they're going to be able to meet, so it was a very special night. When you think of technology in warfighting you think back on that day of Oct. 4, 1957 (for those of you who were alive back then), when the Russians launched their first Sputnik satellite and we were instantly behind in the space race. Think of the energy of these people, these great airmen that put this thing together for our nation and got us back in the lead. You can also say that in a big way they won the Cold War with that deterrent. Just think about it.

Who is that? It's us. That's this outfit that you belong to.

The Secretary also talks about integrating operations. I think the term "integration" is going to be the buzzword for this decade. We have to pay attention to it. Right now, as General [retired] Michael Dugan used to say, we're a bunch of heavy equipment operators. We love our platforms. If you're a bomber guy, you're a bomber guy. If you're a fighter guy, you're a fighter guy. If you're an airlift guy, you're an airlift guy. If you're a space guy, you love them satellites. But at some point we've got to graduate and put all these things together and we've got to think about it in integrated terms. We have a little bit of trouble with that right now.

You go to the Air Operations Center today and you see it. Even today we're doing better, but we're not there yet. You'll see the tribal representative sitting behind the tribal work station in the Air Operations Center interpreting the tribal hieroglyphics that only he knows, because you wouldn't want to teach that to anybody else, copying down the tribal message, standing up and walking three work stations down to the member of the next tribe, and reinterpreting those tribal hieroglyphics for that person to put into his tribal work station in his language to go out and do something with that.

Now tribes aren't bad. That's why we're as good as we are. But at some point we've got to think about how to integrate those tribes.

Think about how we do it. There are some good examples. You saw the sergeant, a combat controller riding a horse out there in the desert in Afghanistan. He's got the laptop computer bouncing off the saddle horn and the tripod laser goggles bouncing off the horse's butt and he stops and sets all that up with the satellite communications back to command and control. He's got the laser goggles shooting the coordinates over to the next ridgeline where the bad guys are hiding. He takes the product of that which is good coordinates, and he beams those up to the B-52 at 39,000 feet in the sky. All of a sudden he's got a string of bombs down that trench line and they're killing a bunch of bad guys.

Think about the stovepipes involved in that. First, we didn't teach him to ride the horse. He had to learn that himself. There's no school you go to for that. As a matter of fact, the first message we got after these guys got on the ground is, "You know, I really need you to drop me one of them leather saddles. These wooden things the Afghans use are really hard on your butt. And I need some Vaseline -- you can figure out why."

But think about it. Here's that horse from 18th century warfare. Here's the GPS and the laptop from the current day. It shoots messages up to a B-52 that was invented by General Curtis E. LeMay in the 1950s and invented to go into the heart of Russia and to drop nuclear weapons. Old Curt's rolling over in his grave at the thought of that B-52 doing close air support, but that's what it's doing. We broke down those stovepipes.

It's our people that do that. That put it together in ways that it just needed to come together to make the thing work for when you need to work it. Who does that? We do that. We do it on the fly if we have to. We know how to make things work.

But the most important of the Secretary's core competencies is this notion of developing airmen. Every story I've just told is about people. You can talk about technology, you can talk about integration, you can be network-centric, and you can get e-mails all day long. But you know what? In the end it's all about people. And the measure of our success is how well we understand this difference between leadership and managership. You all have heard me say it many times before, that leadership is an analog skill in a digital world. There is no substitute for being out there on that ramp in the middle of the night in the driving rain with your head up there in that engine bay with that crew chief saying, "Tell me what you're doing, son." And they'll be glad to tell you what they're doing.

It's finger in the chest. It's face to face. If you screw this up it's not an e-mail that says you screwed this up, it's me telling you, and you screwed this up.

It's taking a walk. We're going to take a walk here and we're going to talk this over, because what you're doing is embarrassing me. It's embarrassing my Air Force. This is my Air Force. You want to embarrass my Air Force, you've got to come through me, buddy.

We all went through that devastating period in the early 1990s where we got confused between leadership and managership. We got confused between the difference between the process and the product. We believed that the process was more important than the product. And this business about managership started to take over.

We got into this "quality" business that measures things in different ways, ways that we weren't used to, and they used words that we weren't used to using. I don't know about empowered. I don't know about breaking down the barriers. I don't know about that.

We had this criterion that was measured on the scale that was invented by a manager in which leadership had seven percent out of 100 on the ranking of merit where we graded ourselves. And when you studied it real hard, you found out that managers had invented a way to measure themselves out of leadership. Because if you measure the inputs just right then the product's going to be good and we don't have to inspire human endeavor, we don't have to lead people to success. We just manage them into it. Wrong. It doesn't happen that way.

Some of our people took it to heart. If you believe in this management school you can get yourself rewarded because when you reach a certain level you're a manager now, and you get to sit behind a desk. We don't have to be out there on that hot old flight line anymore. That's wrong. That's wrong. This leadership school says that's exactly where you have to be. You have to be where the work gets done. I used the flight line as an example, but it's anywhere the work is being done. It's anywhere your people are. Because they will need to be inspired and they're not going to be inspired by an e-mail, I don't care how eloquent you are. They're going to be inspired by you. That inspiration can come in many ways. It can be a vote of confidence or it can be a boot in the butt, but it's always personal.

Part and parcel of being a good leader is to make people understand that you care about the institution you belong to. You are devoted to it. The people that sit before me here today are that by definition. And your job is to make others care about that institution the way you care about that institution. And you jealously guard its reputation because we don't want among us people who act in ways that would sully the reputation of our institution. We want them doing something else.

We can often salvage those people but it takes hard work and it takes dedication and the beauty is that you know the difference. There are those that can be saved. There are those who were never taught to be for something, they were always taught to be against something. The only value they are to humanity is when they can be against something and compare themselves to something bad instead of being for something good. It's a trait called character. Character is laced with traits and virtues of integrity and honor, and it's our job to make sure that our institution takes full advantage of that by advocating the high standards that we saw demonstrated over the skies of Iraq, and we see demonstrated everyday around the world.

You all have heard me say before, many of you have, that one of my favorite things to do is to go out to Lackland Air Force Base (Texas) where on every Friday morning we bring a thousand new airmen into our Air Force. But the fun thing to do is to stand off in the shadows and watch those youngsters come back together with their parents after they haven't seen them for a few weeks. You watch the parents. Every once in a while, and I'll say this to a civilian audience, every single time I watch a graduation, one of the parents will stand up and say, "You know you're right." You watch those parents come back together with the newly minted airman standing in front of his or her mom saying, "Yes, mom. It is me." And the dad's standing back there saying, "That ain't the kid I brought here. No way. This kid's standing up saying ma'am and sir. That kid I brought down here looked like he fell down the steps with a tackle box in his hand with a pierced ear and a pierced eye and a pierced lip. This is a different kid."

And you talk to the new airmen and you shake their hands and you say, "Are you proud of yourself?" "Oh, yes, sir." And you listen to them talk to you because they want to tell you about it. "This is the first time anybody's ever told me they're proud of me, sir." "This is the first time I really feel like I've ever accomplished something." Or, in the worst case, "Sir, I was living in a bad place, I was on the downhill slide, I was on a slippery slope, somebody pushed me towards the Air Force and it probably saved my life."

I love to tell the World War II audiences that yeah, they are the "Greatest Generation." But when they're properly led and motivated, this generation that serves here today, this generation that was raised on Beavis and Butthead and the Simpsons, when you properly lead and motivate them, are just as dedicated, patriotic, and committed as any generation I've ever seen.

You all are surrounded by them every day. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

I love to tell my story of being a wing commander at Eglin AFB (Fla.). We're sitting there, having just finished an ORI, phase one. We generated 71 out of 72 airplanes. We are outstanding by any measure of merit. We're sitting there in our chem gear and we're feeling real good about ourselves and I say, "We've got about 30 minutes left to go. Let's just go ahead and knock this off." And the DCM (Deputy Commander of Maintenance) walks in the room. Remember when we used to have the DCM? The DCM walks in the room and says," Sir, don't you do that. No. You've got to come out here and see what I'm seeing." We jump in the car, me and the DCM and the Vice Commander, and we go out there on the flight line. The 72nd airplane was an F-15 that had an engine problem, and this young staff sergeant, who is the crew chief, is frantic. Is he going to let his airplane be the only airplane out of 72 that wasn't generated? No, he wasn't going to let that happen.

In order to sign off the write-up we had to get it over to the run-up stand. So they had this tug all hooked up and they were pulling this thing over there. Well, the tug broke down. So by the time we pull up in the car, they've taken the tow bar off and 10 or 15 people are pushing this F-15 over towards the run-up stand. So we pile on. People are piling on. Most of them didn't know what they were doing it for. "Where are we taking this thing?" "I don't know. If we push it fast enough will it take off?" "You bet it will."

That crew chief was frantic to get that airplane. We get it over there and get it hooked up and people are flowing out of buildings. The word's getting around. Nobody knows what's really going on. By the time they ran that engine up and signed off that discrepancy with a few minutes left to go, every person in the wing was out there. Only half of them knew what was really going on, but they knew it was good. And they knew they were behind him. And they knew this kid who was a staff sergeant and crew chief was the hero. And they knew he was the happiest person on earth when that discrepancy was signed off.

Now that kid didn't do that -- was he looking for a way to take off 15 minutes early that day? To get out of doing something? No. His name was on that canopy rail and he was looking for a way to be just as proud as those other 71 guys who had generated their airplanes and he wasn't going to let it happen any other way. We're surrounded by that.

I was over in Southwest Asia several weeks ago and was out there with this Red Horse captain who's with about 90 of our great Red Horse engineers. They're building a runway over a lava bed. They first had to pump about 300,000 gallons out from under the runway that was beginning to sink and take it all out and repair it, put it all back in again, and then figure out a way to keep the water out. They're out there with their draining machines and they've been out there working on that thing for a couple of months trying to get all the engineering problems fixed. I'm out there and this captain, chiseled from stone, comes up with his Chief and says, "Sir, you know we've been working on this thing for quite awhile. They're trying to send me home. I want you to know, sir, I'm not leaving until this is finished." And the Chief says, "Me either." I said, "Well, I suggest you stay." That's his runway. He had his hand on that runway, just like a canopy rail.

I walk around all the time and I say where's the regular crew chief? That's what I mean. Not the crew chief of the airplane, it's the regular crew chief of what's going on in his function. He was the regular crew chief. Nobody else was going to finish that runway. We see it all the time.

I was out at Nellis AFB as a wing commander back in the late '80s and I had a call from a guy saying General Motors was getting back into the NASCAR business seriously. They called and said, " We're trying to learn something about leadership. We've got a bunch of great managers here. We'd like to come and see you out there on the flight line. We understand you know how to do this."

So they came out, about four or five of these guys from General Motors. These are the big muckety-mucks who are trying to decide whether to invest billions of dollars in this thing or not. They came out there and we put on a little static display for them, and these fellows combined, made more money than the whole rest of the base put together I'm sure.

And we went out there, and here's a crew chief with an F-15. One fellow goes up and talks to the young staff sergeant crew chief. He asks, "Is this airplane ready to fly?" The crew chief said, "No, sir. It's not." He pops upon the radome and says, "Sir, the power supply up here went bad. I gave it to Sergeant Smith down at the component repair squadron. He's working on it. It will be ready by 1400. We'll put it back in here, and it will be ready to go tonight."

I thought this General Motors guy was going to cry. He said, "Do you mean to tell me you took it out and you gave it to the person who's going to fix it?" "Oh yes, Sgt Smith. And if it's not ready by 1400 I'm going to go kick his butt."

The GM representative called the rest of the guys over. He said, "Tell them your story." The young sergeant says, "Sir, what's the big deal?" He said, "How much do they pay you?" "Not much." "Then why do you do this son?" The sergeant replied, "Because that's my name on the canopy rail."

That guy was willing to pay people a whole lot of money. And he would have taken that kid right away from me that day and made him a crew chief on the NASCAR circuit and paid him a whole lot of money for the pride that he saw that day that he couldn't buy anywhere else. And he was coming out to figure out how we did it.

And look at us. We take it for granted. We count on them. It's part of what we do. It's what makes us the greatest Air Force on the planet.

And part of what we all talk about in leadership is also mentorship. And I know Brigadier General Richard Hassan went over the force development stuff with you, so you know what we're trying to do. I'm trying to start early with our junior officers. I'm trying to make sure that we institutionalize and make a good habit of mentorship. That good habit of getting that rapport that always works best when you've got that junior officer coming in and you put them with that NCO and that junior officer's smart enough to figure out that he's about 10 percent as smart as he thought he was, and if he lashes up with this chief or senior NCO right here, he's going to learn a lot more a lot quicker. You can't stand up in a classroom and teach mentorship, but it's there. But when it's there and it works, it's what makes us as good as we are. It's mentorship.

I talk about officership to officers all the time. You know what I tell them? The biggest part of officership is how you're mentored by the senior NCOs. That's how you become a good officer.

When my daughter, a flight line maintenance officer, came on active duty, I said, "Go find a chief and handcuff yourself to that chief and he or she will let you know when you've learned enough and you're ready to solo." That's what she did. She's thanked me for it many times.

You can sit in a room with good NCOs and you can have a little private discussion going on and they'll never mention a name, and they'll never drop the dime on anybody, but you know exactly what's wrong. If there is something wrong. It's an art and a skill that we develop over a lifetime because of the way we train you guys, and the way you train your replacement.

There's nothing more important in our Air Force today, and that's what the whole business of force development is about. In addition to making sure that we're technically oriented, in addition to making sure that we've got the right Professional Military Education, in addition to making sure that we treat our NCO leadership the way that we treat our officer leadership and our civilian leadership. It's about all of that at once.

And it's up to you. It's up to you to care enough to make those youngsters that come into our Air Force -- enlisted and officer -- what they need to be to lead this Air Force. Let me say I'm proud of the way you're doing it. We can always do it better, but I'm proud of what I see out there, and I'm proud of each and every one of you.

We're also continuing to work on the air expeditionary force idea and this notion that our state of mind, our default state of mind, has got to continue to shift from home station operations at Langley AFB or Holloman AFB or McGuire AFB or Scott AFB to what we're getting ready to do to deploy. We're going to organize ourselves for deployed operations that will also work back home. And we're not going to send part-time leadership to the deployed location because they volunteered. Commanders are not going to really get credit for their command unless they've commanded in the deployed location. And the things that we do to get ourselves ready are all going to be with an eye toward deployed operations.

We're deployed now. I think we've got enough time in the schedule now that we're going to take another look at fitness. We're going to have a fit force that's ready for expeditionary operations that's good enough to go out there in the desert and operate in 120-degree heat. They may not have to lift the airplanes but they're going to be ready to fly it 24 hours a day in chem gear, and they're going to be fit to do that. We're going to figure that out, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Murray and the Surgeon General Lieutenant General Peach Taylor and I are going to figure out the right way to do that.

What I need from you all are ways to help us figure out how to make fitness a social event so that we're out there doing it together. You're not sitting in a cubicle on a bicycle. There may have to be a little bit of that, but we haven't decided on any of that yet. What we're going to do is make it a team thing, and it's a part of the teambuilding that goes into the way we work together with the rest of the team. We're going to need your help to pull that off.

Finally, let me just ask -- who do we do all this for? We jaw about leadership and about mentorship, we talk about the need to bring up our junior officers and our enlisted force properly. Who are we doing this for? It's for that F-15 crew chief. And it's for the great heroes who are out there everyday demonstrating for all of us the courage that we all hope we have when we're challenged the way they are. Look at who they are.

Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. He was on a helicopter with three other Air Force people, a pararescueman out of Moody AFB in Georgia -- a PJ. He's on a helicopter full of Army Rangers that goes to Roberts' Ridge during Operation Anaconda. As they go in, the helicopter gets shot down. As they hit the ground they're already taking wounded because they're surrounded 360 degrees by bad guys. There's wounded in the crash and wounded by gunfire. He pulls them away as best he can, away from the helicopter, and continues to take fire as the combat controllers that were on the helicopter start calling for close air support to get them out of that situation. And during the course of that he's mortally wounded.

When we went out to Kirtland AFB to give the Air Force Cross to his widow, all the Army guys who are on that helicopter stood before me, these big old burly Rangers with tears coming down their cheeks, saying, "As he knew he was going to die, he was telling us what to do to take care of the rest of the guys so they wouldn't die." Senior Airman Jason Cunningham.

His wife's name is Theresa. She's 24-years old. She's got two small children, less then three. She's in ROTC at Valdosta State College and she comes into the Air Force this summer.

Are we worthy to lead those people? I told the audience that day I've got almost 1,000 combat sorties, and I flew 1,429 hours of combat time. Senior Airman Cunningham was on his first sortie and he demonstrated more courage and fortitude on that one sortie than I did in a thousand. Can we do that?

Let me answer that for you. The answer is yes. Everyone in this room can do that and would do that, and yes, you are worthy of leading Senior Airman Cunningham -- but we've got to ask ourselves that question every day. And we've got to test ourselves against that level of criteria.

Technical Sergeant John Chapman. Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. These are our heroes. We buried another combat controller, Staff Sergeant Sadler, at Arlington Cemetery just yesterday (April 25).

And the generations that have gone before us -- we owe it to them to continue to have the greatest Air Force on the planet. I don't know if you believe as I believe, but I believe they watch us. I believe they judge us. I believe they're here with us in gatherings like this one. And I believe they're happy with what they see. Our job is to continue to make them happy.

So it's a pleasure for me to be here today with you all, to be able to share these moments and these thoughts with you all, to thank you for all you do for us, and to make sure you understand that when you look in the mirror in the morning you should be proud of what you see because there is no one else on earth that can do what you're doing. There is no one else on earth that inspires the gratitude of the nation the way you all do with what you do day in and day out.

People look at the images on the television. They are astonished and they don't even know five percent of what goes on. But they're astonished at the results. "How did this happen?" No maneuvering unit on the ground fought a major organized engagement with an organized maneuver force from the other side. Why? Because they weren't there anymore. You all need to be proud of that.

May God bless each and every one of you, and may God bless this United States of America.

Thank you all very much.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).