AETC commander outlines vision
Air Education and Training Command Commander General Edward A. Rice Jr. makes his first official visit to Maxwell last week after taking over AETC in November. During the general's three-day visit, he received briefings and tours of major Air University, base and 42nd Air Base Wing organizations. Pictured with General Rice are retired Gen. John Shaud, left, director of the Air Force Research Institute, and Dr. Anthony J. Gould, right, chief of engagement division, Air Force Research Institute.(Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)
by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs
4/1/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Last week, Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command, visited Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex. General Rice attended Air University as a student, but this tour allowed him to gain additional perspective from his role as the command's leader.
Air University plays a large role in AETC's mission of educating more than 340,000 students per year.
General Rice said this visit is his opportunity to understand AU from leadership, management and administrative points of view.
What was the purpose of your visit here and what have been your impressions of Maxwell-Gunter?
One of the reasons I wanted to come here early is the importance of the activities conducted here that play a role in not only what we do in the AETC enterprise but what we do in the Air Force. I wanted to learn more. ... (I need to know) what goes on here and about the wonderful work the people are engaged in. It's a great opportunity for me to do that.
Please discuss your previous visits to Maxwell-Gunter and what you've taken away from those experiences.
I've been here multiple times as a student and have been here for other types of activities on a short-term basis and have taken away that this is a tremendous asset for the Air Force. What takes place here, the professional faculty, the other people that make this institution work, is world class. We are very fortunate as an Air Force to have a place like Air University, and I personally think that I'm a much better Airman because of my experiences here.
What are some of the goals on your radar for AETC in the year ahead and long term, and how does AU fit into that vision?
I think, in general, we're in good shape in AETC. We produce a product for the Air Force, whether it's recruiting the right type of people in the right numbers, training the right type of people in the right numbers, or educating the right type of people in the right numbers. As you look at our statistics and you look at the feedback from those whom we've produced that product for, it's pretty good. We've got a very strong record of meeting the needs of our customers and doing that in a very, very fine fashion. So one of my goals is to make sure we continue to do that, not only now but in the coming years. I'm also interested in the future, so as we look at things like the joint strike fighter, AETC will be the first command to use that fighter and operate it in a training environment, so we need to make sure we get that right. When we look at cyberspace, when we look at RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft), we have to make sure that what we are doing for the future prepares the Air Force to remain the strongest and most capable in the world.
What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing this command?
Really, they're related to what I just talked about. As we look to the future, it's important that we have a good insight into what that future is going to hold for us and that we adequately prepare for it. And that's a challenge. We have lots of different activities that we need to pay attention to and to be able to pick those out that are both most important and most relevant and focusing our resources on those in the right way is going to be very challenging for all of us. We need feedback, not only from people at my level, but people who are actually doing the work at a more tactical level because they have a better insight into all of this.
What are your expectations for Maxwell-Gunter and for the command?
Again, I think we've got a world-class outfit here that knows what they are doing. There's a lot of tradition and a lot of experience here, so my first expectation is that we'll maintain that level of excellence that we've had for not just years but decades here. More importantly, we all have to think about a future where we are dealing with fewer resources than we've had in the relatively recent past, and we need everybody's ideas about how to do things smarter, how to do things more efficiently, and we've got to continually ask ourselves, "Is there a better way to do this?" And if so, pursue those initiatives.
What differences and similarities have you discerned between this command and your previous commands?
Most recently, I've spent six years in the Pacific Air Forces. Before that, I was in this command in AETC; I was the commander of Air Force Recruiting Service, and I have spent a lot of my time in Air Combat Command. Pacific Air Forces, and ACC for that matter, are really user commands of the product we produce here, so you can really draw that very clear distinction, that we produce a product for those user commands, and if we do that right, then they are often running with their missions of being able to maintain ready forces or execute combat or support operations. That's the major distinction; we have a product that we produce for other commands, and as I said earlier, I'm very pleased with how we're accomplishing our mission.
What do you want the base community to know about you?
That I'm open to their ideas. This is a time period where we need everyone's ideas. The idea is that we all have a culture and a mindset of looking at what we do and trying to make it as efficient and effective as possible, and that we expect there are going to be changes to the way we do things because there are better ways to do them. This is what I want people to know that I'm open to. I'm looking for them to be very open to thinking about how we can do things better and then up-channeling that so that we can make the right decisions.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say that I'm not a micromanager, so I expect people who have responsibility to understand what those responsibilities are and to execute them, and then to come to me and tell me where I can help them do their jobs. I don't believe in trying to do people's jobs for them. They know much more about their specific areas than I do. My job, my staff's job, and frankly the whole headquarters' job, is to support those in the field to do the work.
What or who has inspired you to be who you are today?
Many people, too many to count: the people that I had as teachers in high school, certainly many people that I was influenced by at the (Air Force) academy, including senior enlisted leaders and faculty members. I've had great mentors throughout my Air Force career. It would be difficult for me to pick out one or two or five or 10 people. I believe that it is important for all of us to engage with each other and to interact with each other so that we can all reach our highest potential, and I hope that's what is happening today in our Air Force.