AETC commander pays visit to Maxwell-Gunter
By Carl Bergquist, Air University Public Affairs
/ Published August 24, 2006
MAXWELL-GUNTER AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AETCNS) -- The commander of Air Education and Training Command visited Air University last week to speak to Squadron Officer School and Air Command and Staff College students and faculty.
Gen. William R. Looney III said after seven months at the helm of AETC he was "privileged and pleased" to be part of the command and was happy to have Air University in the organization.
"AU creates the knowledge that fuels our Airmen of the future and develops our young officers and enlisted members," he said.
During a press conference with local media before his SOC speech, the general said he would talk to the SOC attendees about leadership because most of them were already familiar with the AETC mission.
"The reason I do that is because I could give them a commander's perspective of AETC, but I don't think that is as important as discussing the role of leadership in terms of being an Air Force officer," General Looney said.
He said the private sector has incentives, such as bonuses, to induce people to take on tough jobs but the military doesn't have that advantage.
"Our tool is creating an environment where individuals are motivated and inspired and that environment provides them with an opportunity to give back. The only way to create that is with positive and motivated leadership," General Looney said. "As a result, they (military members) are willing to do that (a tough job), they want to do that and they step forward to do that."
During the interview, the general talked about some of the issues facing the Air Force. When asked about the upcoming reduction in the number of servicemembers, he said it was necessary to realize the cuts would affect Air Force personnel across the board.
"For example, look at the Air Force officer population as a pyramid with generals at the top and lieutenants at the bottom. The reduction will be a slice from that pyramid that affects all levels of the officer ranks," he said. "The cut will be proportional and affect about 32 generals, 300 colonels and 600 chiefs, and this goes all the way down to how many captains, lieutenants and sergeants will remain in service."
General Looney said the positions to be cut will be determined by the Air Staff and nothing firm has yet been decided. The cuts will be made over a three-year period during a normal assignment cycle, and some of the position cuts will be handled through attrition. Word of what will transpire should come in the next couple of months, he said.
Regarding the extension of Air Force basic military training from 6 1/2 weeks to 8 1/2 weeks, he said this would bring the service more in line with other branches of the military, and that was a good thing.
"The world and environment we operate in has changed significantly but the amount of time spent in BMT has not changed," General Looney said. "We need to bring more war-fighting skills to BMT and care more about that aspect of training than how an Airman folds his underwear."
He said the Air Force is also concentrating on expanding the language skills of its members, focusing especially on Spanish, French, Arabic and Chinese. He said this incentive will not be across the service but focus on a small segment of the Air Force.
"Certain individuals will be provided the training and we will have the expectation that they will be able to write and speak fluently in one of those four languages," General Looney said. According to the general, the Air Force will offer language scholarships, and they hope to harvest 50 or 60 people each year with language skills.
He said the majority of the force will be involved in various educational courses that bring cultural awareness and some language skills, which, he added, is already being done at Air War College and Air Command and Staff College.
General Looney also discussed the new battlefield dress uniform, saying he felt the new uniforms were a positive step for the Air Force, and once everyone gets comfortable with the change they will see it as a good change and a step in the right direction. The general said he has worn the uniform, and it is comfortable and low maintenance.
"They're sharp looking," he said. "So, people should feel good about what they are wearing. A final decision has not yet been made, but there will be uniforms tailored for both males and females."
General Looney concluded by saying it is important the Air Force educate and challenge its officers and enlisted Airmen to develop the knowledge and skills to be able to function in the present world.
"As you grow in our Air Force, the Air Force will ask more of you," he said. "We do not expect someone to enter a career field and spend their 20 or 30 year career doing just that. We expect as you move through your Air Force career you will become a 'generalist' who will develop expert knowledge in various fields, but you can't learn all of this through on-the-job training. We must bring you into a classroom environment with your peers and give you the opportunity to interact with them and learn."