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2012 Symposium shares lessons, vision with AETC Airmen

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Joe Robles, USAA chief executive officer, delivers a keynote speech during a luncheon Jan. 13 at the Air Education and Training Command Symposium at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. The event offered a "big picture" perspective of the AETC enterprise to nearly 4,000 participants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Lindsey)

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Joe Robles, the USAA chief executive officer, delivers a keynote speech during a luncheon Jan. 13, 2012, at the 2012 Air Education and Training Command Symposium in San Antonio. The event offered a "big picture" perspective of the AETC enterprise to nearly 4,000 participants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Lindsey)

SAN ANTONIO -- Thousands of Airmen from across Air Education and Training Command flocked to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center here Jan. 12-13 to learn about world-leading capabilities and technologies for educating, training, recruiting and innovating.

More than 120 vendor booths and 70 seminars and panels set the stage for a unique learning environment. The event also included keynote speakers and an advance screening of the Lucasfilm Ltd. movie, "Red Tails."

"It is really a great opportunity for all of our Airmen who are able to participate to learn more about the entire AETC enterprise," said Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., AETC commander. "I know everyone is an expert in their particular piece, but I want them to learn about what others do."

He said the nearly 4,000 AETC Airmen who attended will benefit from their experiences at the symposium, but the reason for them participating goes far beyond their individual experiences.

"I also expect them to go back to their units, as I charged them [on the first day] in my opening comments, to take what they learn here and build upon it," the general said. "So I expect everybody in AETC to learn from it, gain from it, benefit from it in one way or another."

The information and seminars offered at the symposium, Rice said, were designed to educate Airmen about the AETC enterprise as a whole, which will allow the career fields within the command to work more seamlessly together.

"The seminars, or what we call the breakout sessions, to me are the real meat," he said. "We have some general sessions, which I think provide the baseline of information, but each individual has dozens of different opportunities to choose particular seminars to help them understand what they need to, a little bit better."

Staff Sgt. Ulysses Alvarado, from the 479th Operations Support Squadron, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., attended five seminars during the symposium and plans to make use of the things he's learned.

"What I've taken away from this symposium are some leadership traits, some skills that I didn't have before, and now I'm looking at the bigger picture [for AETC]," Alvarado said.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Garth Meade, 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex, Ala., said he was inspired by the "train today for tomorrow" premise of the event.

"As somebody who's been in [the Air Force for] 27 years, I just get a really good feeling that we're doing the right things and we're heading the right way and that we have the best professionals in the world," he said. "It really gives us a current report card and a kind of futuristic look at where we're going."

Many Airmen praised the value of the symposium; however, due to fiscal constraints, AETC will now hold the symposium every other year instead of annually. The commander said it's all a part of a new culture of cost consciousness.

"I'm already seeing it," the general said. "If you just look around at what's going on in the command -- from what we're doing in distance learning; what we're doing in bringing electronic capability into the classrooms with different ways of providing the instruction; what we're doing with bringing more into the simulator environment; what we're thinking about in terms of purchases of the next generation of our T-38 and that it's not just an airplane, it's a whole system that's not only going to bring dividends to us in AETC but to the whole combat air forces in the way that we train. It will be revolutionary.

"This idea of the culture of cost consciousness that we talk about will free up dollars, quite frankly, that will be able to be put back into the training and education enterprise," Rice said. "And that is the very, very tip of the iceberg.

"I am absolutely convinced that it is our workers who on their own, if properly motivated, will come up with great ideas that will generate huge revenues for us that we'll be able to apply back into the enterprise. I'm very excited," he said.
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