First Command: AETC first to influence Airmen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Anthony Przybyslawski
  • Air Education and Training Command
To the men and women of the First Command, I leave Air Education and Training Command after spending the past 20 months honored to be your vice commander. Boy, have you taught me a lot! Thank you. Thank you for your tremendous devotion, service and professionalism.

We call ourselves the First Command because of what you do every day. Recruiters bring in the quality; military training instructors begin the process of shaping the "rainbows," recruits in the first week of training; military training leaders polish and prepare the Airmen for their first duty; and instructor pilots create the world's greatest aviators.
Let's not forget the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force, Air University. And all your efforts are for one thing, and one thing only ... preparing the world's greatest Airmen for combat!

I stood on the Lake Michigan beach in Chicago and administered the oath to 60 new recruits about to enter the Air Force. I watched as the recruiters there already started molding these young men and women as they marched these recruits in unison in front of the 1.2 million people there for the air show!
The ceremony was being broadcast on the radio and as we ended with the, "... so help me God," the roar of all those people along 10 miles of beach sent chills down my spine and literally watered my eyes. Those people realized these new recruits were about to join the Air Force for the good of the nation and to protect their way of life. That's what you do!

I spent time at Lackland AFB, Texas, during the in-processing of these new Airmen. I was fascinated by the rainbow appearance and attitude of these individuals as they got off the bus and got their first introduction to our way of life. "Pull those pants up!" the military training instructor firmly stated. "Move it!" "Quit gazing; you a tourist?"
I broke into a chilling, cold sweat as I immediately was thrust back to Feb. 22, 1971, my first day at basic military training and the raspy voice of Staff Sgt. Savoy, my first MTI. He got my attention immediately! That's what you do!

That all changes in eight-and-a-half weeks.

When's the last time you attended a BMT graduation? Looking for a re-bluing event, look no further! Every Friday we produce 600-800 brand new Airmen ready to move on and get their career going.

I was having lunch one day with a couple basic trainees set to graduate in a week and asked one of them what was the hardest thing about BMT. Her response floored me.

She said, "Before coming into the Air Force if I didn't like someone, I would ignore them. But you taught me that if I didn't get along with someone I would not be successful."

And that's when it hit me ... we aren't just making Airmen, we're making better Americans! Warriors ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. Whether they stay in for four years or 40, they will find a way to make things better because you taught them they have something to contribute and can make a difference. That's powerful! That's what you do!

I saw our military training leaders at our technical training wings take those "airmen" from BMT and make them into "Airmen." They build on what they learned at Lackland AFB and provide the elbow grease to polish the skills of the career field. I learned how to take out a gall bladder, set up a remote, world-class communications facility, and fire a sniper rifle well enough to plug the wing command chief's coin.

Walk the halls of the Intrepid Center or Wilford Hall Medical Center and see the care and healing of our wounded warriors. Someone trained those skilled technicians and medical staff. These instructors know that every airman they touch could find themselves quickly "outside the wire" in a combat situation regardless of the career field. The list goes on and on. You provide world-class training while instilling the American warrior ethos! That's what you do!

I'm from the bomber "tribe" so I wasn't sure about these "white jet" aviators. That changed quickly. I've flown with superb instructors in our T-1, T-6, T-38 and C-17 maintained by true professionals. I was in the C-17 jump seat for a night landing at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, with the pilots on night-vision goggles. I never saw the runway. Where did they learn how to do that? Our IPs do that for every aircraft in our inventory, even the crew of the Predator and Reaper. That's what you do!

The last time I attended a course at Maxwell AFB, Ala., was at Squadron Officer School in 1982. That was a long time ago, and I had a couple of opinions about that place. Boy, was I wrong.

Everything is relevant for today's world ... support to the warfighter. Just think about what goes on there ... earn a master's degree while deployed anywhere in the world, new officers develop combat leadership skills at Air and Space Basic Course, officers and enlisted share curriculum during the resident military education programs, senior leaders hone combatant command skills in the flag officer courses, the list is endless.
I've never been what one would call a "strong" student. But I can unequivocally say our Air University faculty is academic giants who push, stretch and challenge each and every student ... to the fullest! That's what you do!

This past week I had the thrill of welcoming the AETC Outstanding Airmen of the Year for their visit to AETC. At the first reception on Monday night we were honored by having three former Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force Robert Gaylor, Frederick Finch and Eric Benken. Seeing them mingle with the truly outstanding Airmen I had another powerful realization. What we do is built on what those before us did for us. Here I was, in the presence of past great leaders, and the next generation of great leaders, who will take the Air Force to the next level.

So, we are the First Command for the Air Force. We take rainbows from across America, make them into Airmen and responsible citizens, and then continue to polish and refine for as long as they stay with us. It's because we will not let down those who came before us and built today's Air Force ... an Air Force we will make better for tomorrow ... to answer our nation's call! It's what we do!

I am so proud to be a part of this great command.