The commander of Air Mobility Command announced six priorities designed to steer the mobility enterprise toward advancing Rapid Global Mobility and power projection in support of the Air Force and combatant commanders worldwide.
In delivering the 2018 Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium closing address Oct. 27, 2018, in Grapevine, Texas, Gen. Maryanne Miller, touched on ways the command is guided by and supports the National Defense Strategy.
“The National Defense Strategy clearly defines our path,” said Miller. “We are in a time of great power competition and we must be ready to compete, deter and win. My top priority is readiness, our mission success depends on it.”
Of 36 seminars available at A/TA, nearly every one addressed or was related to the Air Force’s number one priority: readiness. From topics like training Mobility Air Forces in resilient and agile logistics to practicing emotional resilience within the military, a state of readiness was presented as foundational to the mobility enterprise.
Miller’s next priority, sustaining an effective nuclear response, is reliant on AMC’s aerial refueling and nuclear airlift missions. Both are key to effectively deterring potential adversaries and assuring allies of the nation’s commitments and resolve.
As the world becomes more complex and dangerous, operating in contested environments is going to be the new norm, Miller said, which is why increasing the survivability of the mobility enterprise is a top priority. She highlighted tankers like the ones that enabled Air Force B-1s to conduct coalition strikes in a high-threat contested environment in Syria as an example of what the force can increasingly be expected to face.
“Knowing they were entering an operationally contested environment, the crew took proper precautions to avoid GPS jamming, which began a few minutes after their arrival in the working area,” said Miller. “After extending the operation by two hours to support unplanned contingency refueling, the crew finally returned to base. Once again, great Airmen doing great things.”
To dominate in a world where space and cyberspace are now congested and contested domains, Miller stressed the need for AMC to embrace modernizing command and control efforts. In a seminar on multi-domain command and control, Maj. Justin Reynolds, from the Air Force Strategic Integration Group, outlined examples of how operations in air, space, and cyberspace domains must advance and become more integrated at a tempo an adversary cannot match or operate against successfully.
Tackling the next priority, developing the force, Miller said the Air Force has been a consistent leader in leveraging the strengths and diversity of service members and must look for ways to be more inclusive and maximizing talent. “Our Airmen are our greatest resource, period,” said Miller.
Miller’s fifth priority, modernization and recapitalization efforts, aims to provide timely upgrades to maintain a competitive edge and lethality within the joint force.
The introduction of the KC-46 will help rejuvenate an aging tanker fleet. Also discussed was the movement toward use of 3D printing to replace obsolete parts that are expensive to procure.
Miller’s final stated priority, innovation, was one of the most prominent themes of the symposium. To help explore the topic, Miller invited Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, innovator and philanthropist, to the stage to engage in a discussion and help Miller recognize the finalists for this year’s Phoenix Spark Tank competition, the first one held at the A/TA Symposium.
The competition was designed to spark innovation and bring about mission enhancements via the ideas of Airmen. The Airman-powered Phoenix Spark Program, which originated at Travis Air Force Base, California, was created to foster a culture of innovation, employing creativity and problem solving skills to address areas requiring change in the Air Force. The program is designed to foster collaboration between government, industry, and academia, according to officials.
The winner of this year’s AMC competition, Staff Sgt. Travis Alton, from the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, created a design that fixed an engineering defect within the release assembly of the M-1 cargo parachute for less than a dollar a piece, a considerable cost savings. His idea will move forward to the Air Force-level competition, which AMC won in the previous year.
Miller encouraged Airmen to remain empowered to follow in the footsteps of modern and past mobility innovators throughout history.
She said, “In the beginning, even world-changing ideas like aerial refueling, got a ‘No. So to all my innovators out there, don’t take ‘No’ for an answer… We’re going to send one [innovator] on to the Air Force competition, but we’re going to implement the other three ideas,” referring to the other finalists’ innovative solutions.
To foster innovation, AMC has continued to partner with industry experts to enhance mission effects and advance readiness headed into the future. While on stage, Branson offered insight into how to develop a culture of innovation and stimulate active involvement across an organization.
“I think you’re lucky to have a general who listens,” said Branson. “In this room – I’m sure of it – there’s likely a few hundred wonderful ideas that are all worth capturing… It may succeed; you may fall flat on your face. You’ll learn from doing it and then you’ll move on to the next project and the next project. Ultimately you will succeed, making a real difference.”
Miller concluded by sharing her leadership thoughts and what it takes to ensure mission success.
“As Airmen, we invest in serving our great nation and each other,” said Miller. “As Airmen, we lead from the front, kneel by those in need, share in the work of our teammates … As Airmen, we are never alone. As Airmen, we succeed together.”