Happy (Belated) Birthday, Air Force! Just a short 72 years ago, the concept of a stand-alone air domain centric military department was outlandish and looked down upon to many in the U.S. Army of 1947. Now look at us. The strongest military force in the air, space, and cyberspace domains in the history of the world is only possible thanks to the selfless dedication and excellence that our Airmen put in every single day.
A Note from AAS-SW National Leadership
On behalf of the student members of the Executive Board, we would like to express our sincerest gratitude to Brig Gen Woodward, Marianne Williams, the Board of Trustees, the NACs, and most of all our distinguished visitors for making this year’s Exec Boards an event to remember for years to come. The amount of work hours you all put in for us is staggering. We as students constantly look to you for mentorship and guidance in our various leadership positions, and not a single member of the Executive Management Center, Board of Trustees, or the NACs have ever disappointed. Your tenacity and dedication to civic service, professional development, and education on national defense inspires us to be the best leaders that we can be. Thank you!
April L. Patko, C/Brig Gen, AAS
Nicholas Carrigan, Silver Wings
Rochester Institute of Technology
Exec Boards Summary - Day 4
The Honorable Secretary of Defense, Dr. Mark T. Esper began our last day of the Executive Boards with an address to the Air Space and Cyberspace (ASC) Conference on the advancements within both the Air Force and the Department of Defense as a whole, highlighting the push towards multi-domain operations that Gen. Goldfein educated the audience on just a day before. Secretary Esper was gracious in also allowing members of the conference to come up and ask questions, many of which ranged from inquiries about USSPACECOM, the 11th Combatant Command stood up just a short couple of weeks ago, to “unbiased” remarks on upcoming Army/Air Force Football Game when asked by Region 8 Commander, Cadet Frank Daybell.
AFROTC Commander, Colonel Christopher Bennett, took time out of his busy schedule during the conference to talk specifically to members of Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings on his personal experiences, mentors throughout his career, and to provide insight on his tips to be a successful leader in any field. The humility and professionalism exuded by Col Bennett during his conversation with us was a unique experience not many get to have, and if it wasn’t any indication by the MANY pictures all of our members got with the AFROTC Commander, we all greatly appreciate his hard work and the time he took to speak with all of us.
We hit our third guest speaker of the day before lunch with the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (CMSAF) Kaleth O. Wright’s remarks following Col. Bennett’s visit. The biggest takeaway from Chief Wright’s advice was how to overcome the greatest obstacle you’ll face in pursuit of your dreams: yourself. He spoke on leading with a purpose and maintaining a combative edge in now and future Airmen, which he boiled down to simply “being the best version of yourself.”
Our eighth Joint Business Session consisted of a quick protocol briefing by the National Chief of Protocol Executive Officer (NCOP/XO), Cadet Darius Despain, reminding us of the intricacies and regulations surrounding the upcoming Air Force Birthday Dinner that AAS and SW were to attend later in the evening. Colonel Brian Laidlaw, commander of the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall AFB, FL, and First Lieutenant Joey Fitzpatrick, AAS-SW National Administrative Consultant (NAC) for Internet communications, both came to speak to the attendees of the business session. Col Laidlaw came to personally thank Arnold Air and Silver Wings for our hard work in raising money to assist in the Tyndall rebuilding effort following the Hurricane last year, recounting stories of heroism and tireless work from his Airmen at the base. Lt Fitzpatrick talked to us about his job as a Combat Communications Officer as well as on his experiences living overseas in Germany as his first duty assignment.
Joint Business Session Nine, the final session of the whole Exec Boards schedule, served as a reflection point for both organizations’ student leaders to reflect and receive feedback, both on the past National Conclave (NATCON) in Milwaukee, WI last April to points on how to improve next years Exec Boards. After laughing about Exec Boards specific memes, Brig Gen Woodward, Executive Director of AAS-SW, expressed his sincere joviality on the clear hard work and teamwork that was being exhibited jointly by both Arnold Air and Silver Wings, saying that he was “extremely excited to go into this upcoming year.”
Following soon after was a unique visitor that one can only describe as the woman Stan Lee based Captain Marvel off of. Colonel Samantha Weeks, the first female solo demonstration pilot for the Thunderbirds, commander of 14th Flying Training Wing, mother, and overall absolute Air Force powerhouse gave us the honor of a speech specifically for Arnold Air and Silver Wings on the importance of failure in a successful leader’s career. Sharing with us personal examples of her hardships and stressing the fact that we’re all one big family, Col Weeks’ comments on leadership and perseverance were inspiring and informative for us future lieutenants and industry leaders. As our final planned speaker for our time in DC, she truly ended our business session with a super-powered bang and left us motivated and ready for the Air Force Birthday dinner later tonight (Side Note: has anyone been keeping track of how many guest speakers we’ve heard from?)
Each service has their own version of a celebration to their service’s birthday in the form of a military ball. Although many of them may have different unique components, the consensus and theme is clear: celebration. For many of us it was the first time attending such an amazing tradition. Members of AAS and SW had the opportunity to sit and network with various military and civilian leaders present for the Birthday Dinner (Yes, C/Corley, we know you sat with the CSAF. Congratulations). The smiles and conversations in the room made it expressly evident that we were all bonding and uniting with a common purpose that evening. Here’s a toast, Air Force. Aim high!