SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander of Air Education and Training Command and Chief Master Sgt. David Staton, AETC command chief, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, took a quick three-day trip to visit Team Sheppard June 28 – 30.
The two top AETC leaders received mission briefings, participated in round table discussions and met with community leaders. The general, who graduated from pilot training at Sheppard in 1984, also held an all call in Hangar 1045.
“This is the first time that I’ve been back since I left here 32 years ago,” said Roberson as he welcomed thousands of Team Sheppard members. “What we do is critical to how we defend America. We are the critical asymmetrical power that our country relies on.”
The general also touched on his leadership philosophy.
“I expect you to lead from the front. You have to know what you’re doing if you expect people to follow you,” he said. “What we do in AETC is fundamental to our leadership. There should be no toxic leadership; we want leaders who build teams.”
Leadership should be tailored to each person and the job should get done in such a way that it motivates everyone, he explained.
“This is the best Air Force and we are able to rapidly change and adapt,” he said. “Innovation is critical and change is constant.”
He encouraged anyone with a great idea to submit it using the iMatter link on the AETC web page at http://www.aetc.af.mil/ where he personally reviews each submission.
The majority of those attending the all call were young Airmen in training and Staton had some simple advice for them. The chief spoke of his start in the military and that he never thought about becoming a command chief.
“I was provided with the key ingredients for success from my military training instructors,” he said. “I was just a punk kid from Gentry, Arkansas, and 28 years later, I have a great education, served honorably and I don’t want for anything.”
The chief explained that all it takes is focus, hard work and to never forget why you wear the uniform.
During the all call, Roberson took time to recognize a Sheppard Airman who inspires him. He called Master Sgt. Raneisha Russum, 82nd Force Support Squadron, manpower superintendent, to the stage and told her story.
“She is an inspiration to me,” he said. “Before she joined the Air Force, she was the victim of a sexual assault. She became a part of our team, following in the legacy of her family. As the first female in her family to serve, she was in the Air Force for 13 years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and is now cancer free.”
Roberson marveled at how Russum was able to deal with challenges while still getting the job done.
“In 2014, she suffered a stroke, followed by a second,” he said. “Last year she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We are going to be with you.”
With all that Russum has endured, she managed to get two master’s degrees while raising three children as a single mom. AETC’s top leader again expressed his amazement for Russum’s before coining her.
In addition to Russum, there were other Team Sheppard members recognized for their exceptional performance when the leadership duo visited various base units.
One of the visits was to the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at the 80th Flying Training Wing. The pair were briefed on the uniqueness of the program, which is the only internationally manned and managed flight program in the world that produces pilots for the NATO alliance.
During the brief, Roberson recounted an example of the international partnerships that the program offers to its students. While in command of the 3rd Air Force, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, he met with a general officer of the German Air Force, who happened to be a former ENJJPT classmate of Roberson’s over 30 years ago.
“That international partnership we built years ago, gave us an immediate connection and level of trust that allowed us to fully depend on one another for the task at hand,” Roberson said. “There was no need for small talk to develop trust, because ENJJPT had already given us that opportunity. This is just one of many examples that show how this program and its partnerships can aid the mission farther down the road.”
By the end of Roberson’s visit, he was able see first-hand the full capabilities of Sheppard.
The 82nd Training Wing trains approximately 60,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, both officer and enlisted, as well as members of partner nations, in over 900 courses each year.
To date, the 80th Flying Training Wing has trained over 7,000 pilots for the NATO alliance.
“Airpower truly starts here,” Roberson said.