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November Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Akshai Gandhi, Assistant Adjutant General, Air for the South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, Sept. 22, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Akshai Gandhi, Assistant Adjutant General, Air for the South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, Sept. 22, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Fellow Swamp Foxes,

Thank you for everything you do every day.  The wing has had a great many successes over the past few years.  From wailing on ISIS, defending America’s interests across the globe, and crushing every inspection, our accomplishments are really yours.  You led the way.

At home whether it was a hurricane, domestic unrest, or a pandemic, nothing stopped the Swamp Foxes.  While we took appropriate measures to protect our force, you knew we could not simply hide under a rock.  You knew we had a job to do, and you made sure we were “Semper in Missione”—Always on Mission.  

You knew the enemy was watching. And what you showed them were Swamp Fox Airmen generating lethal combat air power capable of “kicking their butts” while simultaneously taking care of our community in times of great need.  Whether deployed, or at home, you stepped out and faced danger in service of causes greater than yourselves.

I have been privileged to represent the wing in many different places.  It’s remarkable how our Swamp Fox brand is so widely recognized and revered.  It usually involves someone learning that I am a Swamp Fox, followed by an unsolicited story of something amazing you have done for that person or their organization.  You are respected far and wide.

As we look forward to 2022, there will certainly be more challenges.  Some are known, some can be anticipated, and others will inevitably develop.  For example, we already know the purse strings are being tightened and at the same time we’re seeing the return of great power competition.  China is our pacing threat with Russia as a strategic competitor.  These two realities mean we must evolve how we do business.

While no other entity on the planet can challenge the power projection capabilities of the United States, remember our enemies have been watching us for over three decades.  As we’ve already seen, our enemies will attack us asymmetrically—they will do something they think we will not expect.  Before 11 Sep 2001 if an airliner was hijacked, one could expect to be greatly inconvenienced but would probably live through the situation if you cooperated.  On 9/11 that paradigm shifted.

Let’s recall the guidance coming from our senior Air Force leadership over the past few years.  In 2013, Gen. Welsh empowered Airmen to do what they think is right, “If it sounds stupid, don’t do it.”  He was talking about the multitudes of outdated instructions.  He said let your boss know and then move out with what makes sense.  Four years later, in 2017, Gen. Goldfein trusted us to, “Make the right decisions based on our values, your training, the mission, and your experience.”

Recently, our current Chief of Staff, Gen. CQ Brown, has published two short (and easy) reads which should guide our approach and actions—both are easily found online.  In Accelerate Change or Lose Gen. Brown details how the strategic environment has evolved and what we must do to adapt.  How we will adapt are captured in his four CSAF Action Orders:

     Action Order A: Airmen describes a people-first approach.  This means identifying attributes of Airmen the Air Force needs and reviewing personnel and talent management systems to meet the identified needs. 

     Action Order B: Bureaucracy says the Air Force needs to speed up its decision-making process.  Changing design processes will improve effectiveness and efficiency, allowing more space for innovation. 

     Action Order C: Competition explains that Airmen need to understand their role in the long-term strategic power competitions between the U.S., Russia, and China.  The Air Force must improve its understanding of competitors’ ambitions and ways of war to inform how it organizes, trains and equips Airmen.

     Action Order D: Design Implementation says the Air Force needs to know how to adapt to changes. The service must be ready for future budget constraints by developing an affordable, analytically defensible and Congressionally-supported force structure.

As you go forward and do great things for our State and Nation, keep two thoughts in mind:

     “Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the change in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.” – Gen. Giulio Douhet

     “Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr

Innovation, agility, and the keys to success do not come from higher headquarters, they come from YOU—thinking Airmen who are committed experts in their fields, who understand the task at hand, and have the courage to move out and get it done based on our institutional values.  Never forget we are the pointy end of the spear—the business end of America’s national security policy.  Go forth and win!

Semper Primus!

Abu Gandhi
Assistant Adjutant General – Air
JFHQ – South Carolina