Retired director of plans for AFMC supplies advice to JSUPT 15-13 grads

  • Published
  • By David Poe
  • 71st FTW Public Affairs
One of the Air Force's former top materiel command directors spoke at a Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training graduation at the Base Auditorium, Aug. 14.

Retired Maj. Gen. Marshall Sabol, who retired in 2010 as Air Force Materiel Command's director of strategic plans, programs and analyses, told JSUPT class 15-13 graduates to be mindful of the people that support them.

During JSUPT students' stint at Vance, they spend extensive amounts of time with their instructors and classmates.

"You will remember your instructor pilots for the rest of your lives," Sabol said. The former command-rated pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours received his Aviator's Badge at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in 1979. "These pilots put in a lot of hard work. Remember them and the time they put in for you.

"I remember class 80-01," Sabol said. "You'll run across each other again and again, wherever you are. It doesn't matter. Back then, we didn't have the computers - we used hand signals and pen and paper. Keep in touch."

He said his dad, a former enlisted man turned military aviator who passed away this year, reminded him earlier on that the non-commissioned officer is considered the backbone of the Air Force for a reason.

"Find the best NCOs you can; stick next to them and listen," he said. "As my dad put it, 'shut up and listen.' He saw a lot of young lieutenants think they had the world at their hands, and they were taking it by force - they weren't listening. Eighty percent of the Air Force is enlisted. They are the men and women who make this Air Force move."

As a longtime airlifter, Sabol said he considered serving his crews to be vital to mission successes.

"Take care of your team," he said. "When you get off that airplane and you see that crew chief there to greet you, don't just tell them the problems with the plane, thank them for what they do. They're out there on those tough days on the tarmac, where it's 120 and 140 degrees, making sure your airplane is ready to go.

"If you do have a crew, after a long, 24-hour day of flying, when you get somewhere, don't be the first on the chow line," he said. "Don't be the first to get a room. Take care of your crew first - the best kind of leader is a servant leader."

Sabol, who has commanded at the squadron, group and wing levels, also touted the new fliers' home teams: their families.

"Your family is going to be with you through thick and thin," he said. "They've been with you to get you to where you are today. They'll be with you when you make your moves, when you deploy. They'll be with you when you retire."

In closing, after all of the advice about learning and listening, he stressed to them the importance of being leaders and that they can start today because their generation of officers and aviators will be the bridge to tomorrow's Air Force.

"In the Vietnam era, there were 600,000 active-duty Air Force members," he said. "Today we have just over 300,000. There are no benchwarmers in the Air Force. You don't have to be commanders -- you came here with backgrounds, ideas and knowledge that we sorely need. Do not be quiet - if you see something, fix something. You can make an impact right where you are.

"The specter of Air Force missions is mindboggling - this is an exciting time," he said. "The world is our Area of Responsibility - we are the nation's swing force."