Salutes & Awards

November 9, 2012

Former AFMC commander named TD White Award winner

Don Branum
Air Force Academy

A former vice chief of staff and commander of Air Force Materiel Command received the Air Force Academy’s Thomas D. White National Defense Award in a ceremony at the Air Force Academy Oct. 25.

Retired Gen. Lester Lyles received the award for his involvement with the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the Defense Science Board, as well as for his advocacy for science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach.
Lyles joined the Air Force in 1969 after graduating from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He received his commission through ROTC.

“Serving in some capacity for me was … something I looked forward to,” Lyles said during an address to cadets in the Arnold Hall Theater.

Lyles served in uniform for 351/2 years in positions that included director of tactical systems for Air Force Systems Command at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and director of medium launch vehicles for the Space Systems Division at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. He retired in 2003 and was named to the Intelligence Advisory Board in 2009.

Lyles said it would be increasingly challenging for the United States to stay ahead of its rivals as society becomes increasingly technological.

“It’s a tremendous challenge because society is so tech-focused and broad when it comes to capability,” he said. “We’re no longer number one when it comes to some areas of technology.”

To continue to compete, the U.S. needs a technologically proficient workforce, Lyles said. That includes not just information technology but also biotechnology, astronomical technology and “math in more ways than you can imagine.”

Lyles started addressing the challenge during his command at AFMC. When he entered the position, pilots received the lion’s share of promotions among line of the Air Force officers. He brought the matter to the attention of then-Air Force Secretary James Roche.

“Roche personally talked to every young engineer in the Air Force,” Lyles said. “He called it re-recruiting.”

The Air Force also revised the Academy’s curriculum to make it more technology-heavy and to give cadets a broader basic understanding of science and mathematics.

“We hope one of the outcomes will be more people invested in a technological workforce,” Lyles said.

But in order to innovate, tomorrow’s leaders will also need the freedom to fail, Lyles said, recalling efforts in 2001 to test-fire a Hellfire missile from an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

“It would have taken six months and $60 million,” Lyles said. Upon hearing that, Gen. John Jumper, who was Air Force chief of staff at the time, was livid.

“He just wanted to know, can we do it?” Lyles said.

Jumper told Lyles that AFMC was “authorized to fail,” Lyles said. With that, AFMC officials revised the test program, getting it done in about six weeks and spending less than $5 million.

Another issue Lyles took on, as chair of the Congressionally chartered Military Leadership Diversity Commission, was how to improve diversity among the Defense Department’s top ranks.

“Way back in 2009, diversity was not very large on the horizon,” Lyles said. “Now the Air Force has its first female four-star general. The Army’s first female four-star, Gen. Ann Dunwoody, retired about five months ago. The Navy has its first African-American four-star (admiral) running the Pacific Fleet for U.S. Pacific Command.

Increasing diversity within both senior officer and senior enlisted ranks will put the Defense Department “in great stead to have a diverse military organization reflecting the makeup of the civilian population.”
The Thomas D. White Award is presented annually to a U.S. citizen who has contributed significantly to U.S. national defense, according to the award’s fact sheet. A plaque is displayed in Arnold Hall with names of annual winners, who in past years have included Bob Hope, Sen. Barry Goldwater, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Sen. John Glenn.

All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.



World War II veteran presented POW Medal

Col. Scott W. Beidleman, director, Space and Missile Systems Center, Development Planning Directorate, at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., presides over a Prisoner of War Medal presentation, Oct 25, 2013. The POW Medal was p...

NASA announces 2012 small business industry awards

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden April 23 recognized three companies as winners of the agency’s 2012 Small Business Industry Awards. The Small Business Industry Award Program highlights a large business prime contractor, a small business prime contractor and a small business subcontractor for outstanding support to NASA in achieving the agency’s mission during the fiscal year....

Boeing honors 17 suppliers for exceptional excellence

Boeing honored 16 companies and one university last night with its Supplier of the Year awards, recognizing those organizations’ exceptional performance and contributions to Boeing’s success during 2012. The awards are based on meeting or exceeding quality, on-time delivery, post-delivery support and affordability goals, and demonstrating the ability to anticipate and respond to cha...


Nominations accepted for Portraits in Courage

Now through May 1, nominations are being accepted and reviewed for Portraits in Courage, Vol. 8. “Portraits in Courage is a Chief of Staff initiative designed to tell airmen’s stories of courage, valor, and heroism....

61st ABG named Air Force outstanding unit

The 61st Air Base Group at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., has won the Air Force’s Outstanding Unit Award. This award is presented to numbered units that have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units. In a base-wide message, Lt. Gen....

Airman of the Year receives local city’s certificate of recognition

Air Force photograph by Joe Juarez SrA. Levi Mburu (left) receives a certificate of recognition from Hermosa Beach Mayor, Patrick Bobko, during a council meeting March 12, 2013. Mburu was selected as the Airman of the Year for ...


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>