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Generals stress collaboration, innovation during forum

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

General officers candidly discussed innovation, concerns and the service's future during the professional development portion of the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition 2013 here Sept. 18.

The panel featured nine major command generals, the Air Force Reserve commander, the Air National Guard director and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III led the panel and stressed the importance of engaging a cross-section of leadership to learn from, tackle challenges and remain a healthy force.

"Everything we do, every decision we make, has to cross organization and functional boundaries," he said. "There are no more fiefdoms."

Leaders stressed the importance of innovation to active-duty, Reserve and Guard components, highlighting recent examples like the certification of the first Air Force tactical critical care evacuation team of medical professionals, maintainers and aerial porters that occurred earlier this week.

"We now have a team of surgeons who can provide life-saving surgical intervention en route between a trauma hospital and the point of final medical care," said Commander of Air Mobility Command Gen. Paul J. Selva.

"We had been working on the problem end to end for decades," he said. "We have finally linked the last piece of the chain."

Selva noted the feat could not have been accomplished without the contributions of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, who represent more than half of all the mobility capability the nation offers the warfighter.

For warfighters returning home from "outside the wire," Air Force Special Operations Command Commander Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel said he's moved resources into squadrons to provide commandos direct access to mental health specialists.

"We started realizing a lot of physical issues coming back from combat, but more important we started seeing a lot of mental issues," he said. "We've put resources in the squadron not just to work with the physical ailments but also the mental. It is really having an impact."

Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command Lt. Gen. James Kowalski described "incredible strides" in the Air Force's nuclear enterprise and its associated readiness, training and inspections.

"Since summer of 2009, the readiness of those (combat-ready forces) has increased about 37 percent (and) this is a credit to the entire Air Force," Kowalski said. "When the Air Force said, 'We're going to reinvigorate the nuclear enterprise,' we did that."

Gen. Edward Rice, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, said the Air Force is "doubling down" on the business of force development.

"We understand that the value of the individual increases in a time of resource constraints and so we're going to need every Airman to be able to do more and to do it better," Rice said. "We're continuing to turn out world-class Airmen."

Commander of Air Force Material Command Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger said her 80,000-member organization is making "substantial progress" in its reorganization, enabling mission-effective and affordable global vigilance, reach and power.

"When the warfighter calls for a new capability, we think it, we build it ... we make it better, we deliver it to the fight and we keep it in the fight for as long as its needed," Wolfenbarger said. "All of the indicators are going in the right direction in terms of our ability to truly bring integrated life-cycle management to our United States Air Force."

The generals also reflected on challenges and issues that keep them up at night, while caveating that having great Airmen ease many if not all concerns.

But the Air Force's highest-ranking Airman acknowledged one worry: letting Airmen down.

"I can live with all of the changes that come about in a (constrained) resource environment," Welsh said. "I can live with all of that, but if I let (Airmen) down, it would kill me."

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