KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, and Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, AETC command chief, visited the 58th Special Operations Wing and its New Mexico Air National Guard associate unit, the 150th Special Operations Wing, at Kirtland AFB, N.M., Nov. 5-6.
Webb spoke about the 58th SOW’s value to the major command.
“The 58th SOW ensures AETC can continue to supply trained and ready combat aircrew to missions around the world.”
After arriving Nov. 5 on a Kirtland-based 415th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II aircraft, the AETC senior leaders toured the 150th SOW campus and met with Maj. Gen. Kenneth Nava, the New Mexico National Guard adjutant general, to discuss Guard-specific issues related to total force integration and the partnership of the two wings.
The AETC leadership team then stopped at the 58th Maintenance Group hangar for a discussion of virtual reality training.
“Training Airmen is a continuous process. It doesn’t stop because of a change in the operating environment. Fighting through COVID-19 has challenged all of us to adapt to the new conditions. Flexibility has always been the key advantage airpower brings to the fight, and Airmen have always been known as innovators. It’s a great credit to our instructors, here and throughout the command, that they have incorporated all the public health practices while keeping the pipeline flowing and transforming how we train,” Webb said.
The day’s final event was a dinner with the 58th SOW leadership team, including Col. Michael Curry, commander, Col. Brian Reece, vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. John Pilla, command chief, as well as local civic leaders.
Activities on the second day of their visit began with the AETC senior leaders flying on an HH-60G helicopter with the 58th SOW’s 512th Rescue Squadron.
Webb talked about what it was like for him to return to Kirtland AFB as the AETC commander, after being here as a student in 1985.
“Learning to fly the UH-1 at Kirtland obviously holds special meaning to me personally. While there has been change on many fronts, one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication of the people who continue to develop the Airmen we need to compete, deter and win. This base and the city of Albuquerque are absolutely wonderful partners to AETC.”
After landing, the official party went to the 58th SOW’s 415th Special Operations Squadron, for presentation of the 2019 AETC Top Special Operations Squadron of the Year Award to the 415th SOS, and the 2020 Airlift/Tanker Association Gen. Robert “Dutch” Huyser Award to Maj. Matthew W. Single, 58th Operations Group, followed by discussion of the HC/MC-130J divergence.
At a lunch with military training leaders and Airmen, Staff Sgt. Jessica M. Yelkovich, an MTL with the 58th Training Squadron, was STEP-promoted to Tech. Sgt.
“Military training leaders, like Tech. Sgt. Yelkovich, are incredibly valuable to us. They are ‘force generators,’ because they train and develop our future Airmen. We want our best and brightest to put in for these positions, where they can directly apply their leadership skills and impart their knowledge to our new Airmen,” Thompson said.
The AETC senior leaders then traveled to the 58th SOW’s 71st Special Operations Squadron to present the 2019 AETC Flying Training Instructor Civilian of the Year Award to Samuel D. Spencer, CV-22 instructor flight engineer.
Next was a stop at the 58th SOW headquarters, for a dialogue about the 512th Rescue Squadron’s transition to operating the HH-60W, the Air Force’s newest combat search and rescue helicopter.
Discussion continued about survival, evasion, resistance and escape training modernization, and COVID-19 operations.
“In AETC, we’re focused on four priorities to move the command forward: Advance Force Development; Enhance Lethality and Readiness; Transform the Way We Learn; and Cultivate an Environment of Excellence. All of them are being put into action here at Kirtland,” Webb said.