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AETC Commander advocates for empowered Airmen, mission command focused training during AFA

  • Published
  • By Dan Hawkins
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Lt. Gen. Brian S. Robinson, commander of Air Education and Training Command, shared his perspective on developing 21st-century Airmen and Guardians who are ready for the future fight during an Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference panel here Sept. 11.

Robinson joined senior leaders from the Air Force Reserve, Space Training and Readiness Command, and the Joint Force staff on the main stage, sharing his message to the force about why building an innate warrior mindset within Airmen and Guardians is critical for peer-to-peer competition in the context of the National Defense Strategy.

“Empower your Airmen at every level, starting with the why,” Robinson said. “Our company grade officers, junior field grade officers, non-commissioned officers, and senior non-commissioned officers are far more capable than we often give them credit for, for doing an exercise untethered with the commander’s intent in their pocket, and the right authorities. We must support and coach them. That is part of how we, collectively as an Air Force, develop our Airmen.”

According to Robinson, it all comes down to Airmen and leaders at all echelons developing their critical thinking skills, being multi-capable and ready for great power competition.

“We want someone who's biased for action, someone who can respond with what they understand is the right thing to do just based on their commander's intent, which we see as mission command,” Robinson said.

Noting the embedded and frequent touch points the First Command has with both uniformed and civilian Airmen during initial or advanced skills training, as well as formal education, the command is developing methods to inculcate the warrior mindset into an Airman’s DNA from a competencies-based perspective.

“We want to make (the warrior mindset) part of your core foundational competencies,” Robinson told the standing room only audience. “What are the right areas, in the right dose, to introduce Airmen into the idea of the warrior mindset and agile combat employment, and how to think about problems differently?” 

The general also talked about how Airmen already apply the mission command concept and its agile relationship to Air Force doctrine.

“It’s frustrating for our competitors that we will step away from doctrine in a heartbeat if it's not working on a tactical battlefield and find a different way,” Robinson said. “But in the end, we wind up having the agility to understand the commander's intent…and we figure out a way to get the mission done.” 

While discussing how training is evolving at basic military, technical, and flying training, as well as at Air University, Robinson referenced operations-based feedback from the force as a driver to the training environment of tomorrow. 

“One of the main feedback items from the force on Operation Allies Refuge was ‘if we had only known what this was going to be like, we think we would have been better prepared,’ and that gets back to the readiness piece,” Robinson said. “So we owe touch points on that. Our goal is to make sure we have objectives at the right level, at the right pace and the right quantity.”

When asked about what types of training that the service could do more or less of, Robinson discussed focusing on more “thoughtful” training in the context of strategic competition.

“At a tactical and operational level, I think we can do more training, which obviously comes with the time to do it,” Robinson said. “The training I'm talking about is thoughtful training; thinking about the adversary number one, and number two, concerns that are in the National Defense Strategy. We all know who they are, how they're going to fight, how they see the battlespace, so think about that from an all-domain perspective and how you're going to get to the fight.”

Squadron commanders and higher shouldn’t wait for higher headquarters direction to get that thoughtful training started, Robinson said.

“We should all be synchronized and aligned to the six fights and the (SECAF) operational imperatives,” Robinson said. “The information is out there….the white papers are published. There's lots of research available at the right levels to figure out what you want to train your organization to at the wing, group or squadron perspective. No one should have to tell any squadron commander or senior enlisted leader what to train to specifically. Use your imagination, understand where your force is and go get after it.”