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AFGSC conducts Senior Leader Conference at F.E. Warren

  • Published
  • By Staff Reports
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Commanders, command chiefs, civic leaders and staff from across Air Force Global Strike Command converged upon F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, April 5-8 for the command's spring senior leader conference.

The SLC allows senior leaders to come together and share best practices, discuss unique challenges and collaborate on solutions for issues that affect the Global Strike mission and its people.

“As a team, we really need to understand who we are as Global Strike Command,” Gen. Anthony Cotton, AFGSC commander, told the group. “Not 8th Air Force, not 20th Air Force, not civic leaders, but collaborators of Global Strike.”

Cotton told the group rather than have the typical A-staff briefings and updates, he wanted to do something a little different this year and really focus on the current strategic challenges and also focus on some key issues faced by Airmen and their families.

With that in mind, conference topics included AFGSC goals and objectives for the year, dealing with mental health issues, education challenges faced by military families, modernization efforts and the current geopolitical environment, including China and Russia.

Gordon Chang, a columnist, author, lawyer and analyst, kicked off the conference with a discussion on Chinese culture and the importance of American nuclear deterrence.

"The ground based missiles are the most important leg to the nuclear triad, and they provide the true deterrence that we absolutely need," Chang said. "We live in different times, so we may not comprehend the danger…. but we cannot deter China if we don't even try.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., joined the attendees for a VTC during the conference, highlighting the Air Force role in the 2022 National Defense Strategy and the fiscal year 2023 budget request. Brown also spoke to the importance of research and development in accelerating change.

“We have to have collaboration with industry partners and we have to have great teamwork and my hat is off to Global Strike Command based on two key programs, the Sentinel GBSD (ground based strategic deterrent) and the B-21,” Brown said. “This is partly because of the partnership we have between our operators, acquisition professionals and our industry partners. That’s the way programs need to go.”

Brown said being flexible is an important aspect of ensuring positive change.

“We can’t be so tied to the way we’re organized today that we put ourselves in a position such that we’re not prepared for tomorrow,” he said.

The CSAF also took time to thank AFGSC leaders for the important work Strikers do on a daily basis and what that effort means to national defense.

“It is this command that provides our nation the advantage of global strike,” Brown said. “It is a critical backstop for our diplomats and the reassurance to our allies and partners.”

Following the VTC, Cotton spoke in depth about the importance of engagement across multiple channels, one of the new AFGSC lines of effort.

“Engagement is the full gauntlet. It is engaging with our Airmen to weave in the other lines of effort and us explaining to them how we’re treating them as human beings and what we’re trying to do to deliberately develop them,” Cotton said. “Yet, it’s also an engagement with the civic leaders of our world to say ‘we are part of your community’.”

One of those civic leaders, Carolyn Ritschard from Cheyenne, Wyoming, praised the opportunity to engage with other civic leaders and command leadership.

“This SLC was informative, thought provoking and inspiring,” she said. “I especially enjoyed the opportunity to talk with other civic leaders and exchange ideas on how to be supportive communities.”  

The second day of SLC began with a focus on the enlisted force, with Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, AFGSC command chief, providing insight on a number of topics important to the enlisted community. Smith also looked to the future of leadership within AFGSC and ensuring the Airmen of tomorrow are prepared for changing environments.

“What does a Striker of 2032 look like? I think our foundational competencies are solid - it will require an agile, creative and innovative leader,” Smith said. “It’ll be someone who has been empowered and knows their leadership trusts them to make the right decision and take some risks.”

Continuing with the theme of looking after Airmen and families, Alicia Pepper, spouse of a U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Devin R. Pepper, reminded leaders of the importance of school systems to military families and how it can become a major stress point as families move location to location.

Cotton emphasized her point, mentioning that education and schools have become a retention issue, as some members are choosing separation or retirement over forcing their children to change schools.

To that end, Pepper has actively worked toward the passage of Colorado House Bill HB21-1217, a law giving military families a more equitable playing field in Colorado’s public schools, while advocating for a federal version of the law and passage of similar laws in several different states. The AFGSC civic leaders in attendance took Pepper’s challenge to heart, and pledged to work on bringing similar legislature to the national stage.

Later in the day, retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, provided some historical context to the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine and how that history will likely drive new challenges for the U.S.

Bolger stressed the importance of American modernization, training and upkeep to meet those challenges of tomorrow.

“[Fear of our capabilities] is not a birthright. It doesn’t come because we put a patch on and wear the right uniform,” Bolger said. “We must train and while we’re waiting for modernization, we need to squeeze every last drop of capability out of the weapons we have now.”

At the end of the conference, Cotton and Smith emphasized the importance of the lessons learned during the group’s time together, and stressed the importance of the Command’s deterrence mission.

“What we heard from every single speaker - renowned speakers in their professions – the one thing that all of them said was that global strike is key to the success of our democracy,” Cotton said.  

Smith concluded by stressing the importance of relationship building to all leaders from generals to front-line supervisors.

“It’s not just about relationships, it’s all about relationships,” said Smith. “And we are Striker Strong.”