JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Members of the First Command welcomed Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos as their new deputy commander as of Aug. 27, 2021.
Tullos joins the headquarters team after serving as the Second Air Force commander at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. She entered the Air Force in 1991 and received her commission through Officer Training School. She is a career Security Forces officer and has also completed command tours at the squadron, group, and wing level.
“I’m most excited to learn and experience the enormity of the First Command mission,” said Tullos. “From our flying training units to recruiting to what our medical teams are doing - not just for the military, but for the nation, helping Americans in civilian hospitals - to what we’re doing right now at Holloman for our Afghan partners, it’s amazing. When we are asked to do something, we do it. And generally speaking, we do it extremely well.”
That said, Tullos is not new to the training mission set. Prior to joining the AETC headquarters team, while serving as the Second Air Force commander, at the start of the pandemic, Tullos was responsible for basic military training and technical training Airmen. She describes that responsibility as “taking the best civilians our country has to offer and transforming them into exceptional Airmen of character.”
Fighting through COVID
“Giving our subordinates the confidence to lead and reassuring them in something like COVID was humbling to be a part of,” Tullos said. “Watching how quickly Airmen embraced what we were asking them to do under very difficult conditions is not something that I believe is organic to Second Air Force, I think it happened all over the command.”
Amid the pandemic, not only did basic military training continue to develop the Airmen we need, meeting production requirements, but a secondary location for BMT was executed, verifying surge capability and agility of the training pipeline.
Looking back at her time in command, Tullos noted her appreciation for citizens and officials from the state of Mississippi, and their pride in our nation’s military. She specifically recognized members of the Mississippi National Guard for their support in executing BMT at Keesler. She also highlighted the relationships with sister service counterparts and the teamwork across AETC that enabled fighting through COVID.
“We're in a global pandemic, and what a blessing that we had Maj. Gen. John DeGoes (59th Medical Wing commander at the time) with the experience of the Ebola pandemic behind him, along with his operational experience,” said Tullos. “To be able to pick up the phone anytime and say, ‘Ok tell us how you think we should do this.’
“That culture of teamwork across the AETC headquarters, 59th Medical Wing, Air University, 19th Air Force, 2nd AF, 502nd Air Base Wing and Air Force Recruiting Service, and how that translated down to the teamwork across the wings, and the teamwork across the groups, was amazing to watch.”
Ultimately, she credits the command’s accomplishments to the NCOs of the command. Ninety-three percent of the Air Force's enlisted career fields are represented in 2nd Air Force with technical training school houses relying on staff sergeants, technical sergeants, master sergeants and their civilian equivalents to create the foundation for Airmen.
“The noncommissioned officers that form our instructor cadre, our military training instructors, and military training leaders, are the envy of our partner nations,” she said. “Their pride in their craft and the amazing amount of passion they have for what they do, that was the secret sauce. It’s our professional NCO corps and the level of responsibility we give them that makes us successful.”
Beyond the response to the pandemic, Tullos shared her pride in how Second Air Force and AETC have reimagined the classroom to accelerate change across the training enterprise.
Technical training “flipped” the classroom, embraced student-centric learning by changing the role of instructors from someone who lectures from behind the podium to someone who's a facilitator of learning and is much more engaged. This allows students to learn at their own speeds and become followers and leaders in the classroom.
“Ultimately, that's how we fight. We need our Airmen to be leaders and followers in any operational setting we place them in,” said Tullos. “And now that begins in the classroom, however you define it.”
Reflecting on 2nd Air Force’s accomplishments during her time in command, Tullos explained how a classroom is no longer only defined as a room with four walls and rows of desks.
“I think there will always be a place for a traditional classroom, but a classroom to us could be the flight line. It could be inside an aircraft, like you’ll see the hurricane hunters go fly in the Gulf and we have medics in the back training and the back of that aircraft is their classroom,” said Tullos. “A classroom could be a mountainside or a ridgeline where our Special Warfare Airmen are learning to conduct dismounted patrols. This is where an instructor is able to stop them and tell them to take a knee right there. Then they're recreating the scenario again, outside in a forest on a ridge line or in a valley, weather conditions and all. That is a classroom.”
The classroom is being reimagined, not only in Second Air Force, but throughout AETC at 19th Air Force in flying training and Air University across professional military education.
“What I will take with me is that they [the training instructors] did an amazing job of believing, trusting, doing what we asked them to do, and then telling us how to make it better,” said Tullos. “This transformation is still underway, and I don’t think it will end. We will continue to reimagine training, not based on what we have at our fingertips, but based on what will be required of an Airman to win a future fight.”
Continuing the Transformation
Transitioning to the deputy commander position, Tullos is eager to reinforce the First Command’s role in developing multi-capable Airmen.
“We should be working on critical decision making, how we issue mission type orders, how we communicate effectively with each other, and how we operate as a team,” Tullos said. “I don't think it's just about moving faster, we have to move at the speed of our competency.”
Tullos elaborated that it all starts with foundational airmanship, specifically the core values and critical thinking.
“This is a high-risk business and we have to set the foundation correctly, right from day one,” she stated. “If we do it right, it will be much easier for our operational commanders to place those multi-capable Airmen into an agile combat employment construct and let them be successful.”
AETC personnel play a unique role in setting the foundation of the force, but also continuing training and education throughout an Airman’s career. The command’s overhaul of training includes Airmanship 400, an on-demand resource of consolidated reference materials and videos.
“Training doesn’t stop after an Airman leaves AETC,” said Tullos. “We owe the rest of the Air Force a toolkit that no matter where you are, or what rank you are, or what skill level you're at, you can access us and continue to learn. As a supervisor, as a leader, a civilian, we should be the toolkit out there with you. And, you should be able to grab the torch when you need it. That’s what you’ll find in Airmanship 400.
“We're all different leaders,” she said. “Some people will want one section of Airmanship 400 and never have to use another section, and that's fine. We want everyone to know that it's there for you if you need it, that it's relevant, accurate, and it's actually helpful.”
With her experience in training, and first hand understanding of AETC’s current priorities, Tullos is ready to expand her aperture on the diverse mission sets across the command.
“I get up in the morning and I think ‘what can we do for our Airmen today.’ And that's AETC in a nutshell,” Tullos said. “There's an opportunity at every door in this command. Let's get after it.”