Citadel president attends Ninth Air Force's Tri-State Leadership Forum
Reprinted with permission of USAFCENT/9th Air Force Public Affairs Division
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – Retired general officers representing six decades of Air Force history, including Citadel President Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, connected with today's joint warfighters ealrier this month as part of the first regional Tri-State Leadership Forum.
The forum brought together 28 retired Air Force general officers from three states for a chance to network and learn about today's Air Force. Ninth Air Force hosted the event, in cooperation with U.S. Air Forces Central Command and U.S. Army Central Command.
"The event was a way for us to reach out to retired general officers in our area and help them connect with the Air Force," said Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, 9th Air Force commander. "It also gave them a chance to interact with young Airmen and gain an appreciation for the Air Force's role in current operations around the world."
Retired general officers arrived on base Oct. 10 and received demonstrations by 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal personnel and a 20th Security Forces Squadron military working dog/canine handler team. The generals awoke to a full day of activities Oct. 11, beginning at the Carolina Skies Club with presentations by speakers from 9th AF, USAFCENT, USARCENT, the 77th Fighter Squadron and the 55th Fighter Squadron on topics including Shaw Airmen's contributions in Operation Unified Protector in Libya, the impact of Air Force budget realities, and Shaw Airmen's efforts in support of current operations in Afghanistan.
"The forum has been very informative and very inspirational. It's great to see old friends and see the progress on base since I was wing commander here," said Lt. Gen. John Rosa, current president of The Citadel. General Rosa served as the 20th Fighter Wing commander from 1995 to 1997 and retired in 2005 from his position as the Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"This was a very good eye-opener," echoed retired Brig. Gen. John Finan, former director of budget operations, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Financial Management and Comptroller, and current leader of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. "The forum was a great opportunity for flag officers who aren't living near a base to get a feel for what's going on in the Air Force."
During breaks between presentations, retired general officers mingled and spoke with junior officers and enlisted Airmen who volunteered to attend the forum.
"I had a chance to speak with company grade officers, field grade officers, junior enlisted and non-commissioned officers, and I am absolutely impressed," said retired Brig. Gen. Hank Taylor, former vice director of logistics for the Joint Staff and current vice president of global business development for the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. "I am impressed by their professionalism, impressed by their knowledge, and impressed by their dedication to making sure the mission is accomplished successfully."
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap, former deputy judge advocate general of the U.S. Air Force and current law professor at Duke University and executive director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security agreed, stating "I was really excited by the quality of the young enlisted and young officers I met here. They are not just skilled at their professions, but they're also nice people that you're energized just being around. I'm thrilled to see that in our Air Force."
The conversations were valuable not only for the retired general officers but for the young Air Force personnel as well.
"It was encouraging to see retired generals that are still so involved in today's Air Force and still heavily vested in the Air Force's success," said Capt. Anthony Genochio, 20th FW executive officer.
Following the presentations, the group received a tour of the base and flight line, including a stop at a 20th FW hangar. The retired general officers heard presentations on topics including explosive ordinance disposal technology, military working dogs, advancements in combat arms, and the latest technology associated with F-16CJ operations and maintenance.
For many of the retired general officers, the forum was an opportunity to be're-blued' and reconnect to their Air Force roots.
"I've been retired for almost 20 years now, and I haven't been to Shaw for about five or six years," said General Finan. "Living in Columbia, I've seen almost nothing but Army green uniforms for the last five years, so it's nice to see some Air Force blue again!"
Retired general officers who attended the forum gained knowledge they can communicate to their own networks and local communities to help share the Air Force story; additionally, they provided a conduit back to the Air Force about civic matters.
"Understanding the Air Force's position and some of the challenges facing the Air Force allows us to interact in a much more knowledgeable fashion," said General Taylor. "I think we are always a part of the Air Force. Now that we've left active duty we can still be of benefit to the Air Force, and I think we should look for those opportunities."
Ninth AF is tentatively planning on making the retired general officer forum a recurring annual event. Forum attendees agreed that the event was a worthwhile experience.
"The forum really went a long way at getting us reconnected and helping us learn a lot that we didn't know—even those of us who have tried to follow Air Force news," said General Dunlap. "I hope that other commands in the Air Force emulate what 9th AF has done here."