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Order of the sword
Gen. William R. Looney III, Air Education and Training Command commander, addresses the crowd during his Order of the Sword presentation ceremony in San Antonio May 30. General Looney retires July 2 after more than 36 years of service -- the last three as AETC commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joel Martinez)
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General Looney to retire; leaves AETC "A command of choice"

Posted 6/27/2008   Updated 6/27/2008 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Mike Hammond
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

6/27/2008 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- As the commander of Air Education and Training Command, Gen. William R. Looney III sought to make AETC "A command of choice" for Airmen while concentrating on providing combat-focused training to everyone who comes to or through the command.

As he prepared to retire after more than 36 years of service, the general reflected on a number of initiatives the first command has taken to ensure all Airmen enter with a warrior mentality and the skill sets necessary to operate in today's environment. By increasing basic training to 8 1/2 weeks in length, providing combat convoy and battlefield Airman training and advancing the use of technology to improve training efficiency and effectiveness, AETC has consistently developed Airmen today for tomorrow under his command.

To effectively accomplish that mission, General Looney said it was important for members to be proud to be on the team.

"Possibly one of the greatest accomplishments during my time was to come very close to achieving my vision to make AETC a command of choice, a place Airmen and their families wanted to be assigned - they wanted to be part of the recruiting, training and educating mission," the general said. "We needed two things to make that happen. First, the role you played in the command had to be rewarding and satisfying to the individual - and they had to be recognized for the significant contribution they made to the Air Force and the nation by being a part of AETC.

"The second part is that families and Airmen would enjoy a quality of life that is second to none," General Looney said. "I wanted AETC's quality of life to reflect that these were the world's greatest Airmen and families."

By supporting and bringing to reality various improvements around the command, such as new fitness centers, dormitory improvements, and the benefits of privatized housing, the general had a reputation for backing his intentions with the funds to get it done.

Despite the legacy of improvements and innovation he leaves behind, General Looney was quick to point out that the focus should never be on him as commander, and that leaders at all levels "shouldn't allow it to be about them - it should be about the people.

"It's our job as leaders to care about our people. To motivate them, to inspire them, and to provide them the support they need to do what's being asked of them," the general said. "At the end of the day, it's not necessarily the leaders who are getting the mission done. It's the Airmen."

General Looney stressed the vital importance of keeping a positive attitude in the current climate, with challenges like high operations tempo, frequent deployments related to the Global War on Terror, and reduced manning in offices and shops around the Air Force.

"Regardless of your career, regardless of the role you play in life, you are going to be faced with peaks and valleys. That's life," he said. "What's important from my perspective is facing each challenge with a positive attitude. Even if you aren't sure what's being asked of you can be done, you have to think that if it can be done, if anybody can do it, you can. And I think 90 percent of the time the capability you possess and the resources you have allow you to be able to do that. The positive attitude fuels the desire and also the capability to accomplish the job."

When asked what he will remember most about the Air Force and his career, he cited 3 unique attributes of the Air Force:

First, the Air Force provides everyone opportunities. "I believe it doesn't really hit you in the early stages, even the later stages, of your career: that the Air Force gives us tremendous opportunities," General Looney said. "While it may be harder for some than others, if you have a dream in this Air Force that you want to achieve, you have a chance to fulfill that dream if you make the effort. That is a unique organization to be in.

"Second - the quality of people we associate with. To be able to come to work every day with people who are committed, dedicated, professional, drug-free, with high integrity, and respect for each other's dignity - regardless of race, gender, religion, or social class - is another thing that makes this Air Force so very special," the general said.

"And the third piece of it is that we get to contribute to something greater than ourselves by wearing this uniform and serving this nation. There are very few organizations where service before self is a core value or a core descriptor of what you do," General Looney said. "But the day will come when all of us will sit on that front porch in a rocker reflecting back on what exactly we did with our lives ... what contributions did we make?

"Those of us who wear Air Force blue will never have a problem answering that question - and feeling proud of the answer."

General Looney retires July 2 in a ceremony here. Lt. Gen. Stephen Lorenz, formerly the Air University commander, will be promoted to general and take command of AETC that day.

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