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Vice chief visits Academy, discusses commitment, success

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein visited the U.S. Air Force Academy Jan. 27 to meet Airmen and cadets, discuss the value of commitment to a higher cause, and how the Air Force will continue to excel.

In two large group sessions, Goldfein, a 1983 Academy graduate, told his audiences of total force Airmen that their special skillsets will always be in high demand.

"We have ways of thinking about our future enterprise as a force that have yet to be conceptualized," he said. "Our Air Force is too small, too old and slightly out of balance for what the nation needs, but there is also a trifecta of opportunity to lead combined operations and joint warfare for the next decade. We have far more opportunities than challenges."

This trifecta includes the defense secretary defining China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremism as the nation’s operational challenges. It also includes the Air Force Strategic Master Plan and Air Force Future Operating Concept.

"Our future operating concept is perfectly aligned with the Department of Defense Third Offset Strategy and central to what the Air Force provides our nation," Goldfein said.

The general also emphasized the role Airmen and cadets have in keeping the Air Force great. He said the most significant lesson he learned as a young man was the importance of commitment to a greater purpose.

During his early cadet days, an air officer commander gave Goldfein a chance to alter his path, a test program that allowed some cadets to leave the Academy with the option of returning the following year.

After leaving the Academy, the general spent a year without direction, biking his way across the U.S. He said the kindness he was shown by strangers during his trek made him understand how special his country is and what an honor it is to protect it. Renewed, he returned to the Academy.

"I learned what it means to commit to something and I rediscovered the Academy," he said. "A place I once viewed as a challenge became an environment full of opportunities."

Cadet 1st Class Kristov George, the Cadet Wing commander, said the 4,000-member wing was encouraged by Goldfein's story.

"His words are inspiring to any cadet who finds themselves in the 'middle of the pack,"' he said. "It's pretty motivational to receive a firsthand account from someone who took the Academy for granted initially, then eventually turned it around for the better. Gen. Goldfein has proved that as long as you have the will and work ethic, there's always a way to achieve your goals."