U. S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox
Apollo 13 Navy Capt. Jim Lovell shares his experiences aboard the infamous spacecraft during a visit to Maxwell Aug. 24. He met with Air War College and Air Command and Staff College students to discuss leadership in the face of challenges.
Lovell shares Apollo 13 story with students

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University public affairs

9/4/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -  -- Apollo 13 Navy Capt. Jim Lovell launched Air War College students Aug. 24 into his famous space mission where leadership qualities of stewardship and prioritization made the difference between mission failure and survival.

During his mission aboard Apollo 13 in April 1970, Lovell led his team safely back to earth by manually navigating the spacecraft using only a stop watch and two emergency control switches. The craft was experiencing a critical failure in one of its oxygen tanks, resulting in a rapid loss of air for Lovell and his two
crew members.

Relaying heroic and horrific details of his last space mission aboard the infamous Apollo 13, Lovell, 85, told his experience with an intensity and humor that engaged students and faculty of the AWC and later that afternoon to the Air Command and Staff College.

"It wasn't just a cool space adventure," said Lovell. "It was really a classic case of crisis management where certain attributes were required to be successful, and they were brought out that way like leadership, team work, mission, perseverance."

He said these are the kind of qualities military members must have as they grow in rank, and leaders and begin to shoulder more responsibility over their teams, time and the mission.

"They will have to make decisions and have to prioritize what they're doing to get the most out of the time they have, the equipment they have and the people they have," said Lovell.

His unique adventures working with NASA's space program gave students a firsthand look at the kind of unforeseen circumstances they could face on any mission, whether in space or air, and what they should do to prepare for such scenarios.

"There's so much chance to learn, and they need to keep their minds open and absorb the environment around them because they are offered in a military career so much opportunity," he said. "Leadership is a quality that is learned, and that's the whole reason why you have a school is to pass that on to students."

Col. Mark Danigole, deputy course director for the AWC Department of Leadership, created the coursework for this year's instructional period and knew Lovell would be the perfect resource for teaching the importance of stewardship and prioritization as it concerns leadership.

"We've all seen 'Apollo 13,' but just talk about a man who had his environment and a finite level of resources," said Danigole. "He had three guys, one of them sick, he had a finite level of oxygen and he had a finite amount of time and he had to prioritize all these things and every action that he did just to survive."

Danigole added that Lovell exemplified the servant-leader mentality while taking measures to not only secure his own survival but for the crew alongside him as well.

"You don't lead to take care of yourself or to fulfill your own aspirations. You take care of your resources, your people, the environment, your time and consider other people as you make decisions as military leader," he said. "That's how stewardship and prioritizing transitions into decision making."