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Success of Air Force logistics begins with Sheppard AFB training mission

Sheppard AFB

Airmen from the 366th Training Squadron electrical systems apprentice course prepare to “set” a power line pole as their instructor cleans an auger used to bore the hole at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, July 25, 2018. Because the average electric pole is about 40 feet, it must be put about 6 feet in the ground to be secure. To do this, students utilize a digger derrick, a large utility truck that is used as a hoist, crane, and auger to set utility poles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Clites)

Sheppard AFB

Airman Chris Hilton, left, and Airman 1st Class Dominik Roeglin, right, 362nd Training Squadron F-15 crew chief apprentice course students, open an F-15 Fighting Falcon's nose at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, August 1, 2018. The radar used in the F-15s at Sheppard AFB are an A model, older models that are static, non-moving pieces. There are still some F-15s in service that use these A model radars, but are slowly being replaced by the more fancier rotating radars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez, often referred to as the “godfather of logistics” in the Air Force, once said, “If our aircraft, missiles, and weapons are the teeth of our military might, then logistics is the muscle, tendons, and sinews that make the teeth bite down and hold on— logistics is the jawbone!”

Just as logistics is the jawbone to global military operations, Sheppard Air Force Base is the foundation by which the Air Force is able to produce logisticians in a myriad of specialties to ensure aircraft can take to the air, complete their mission and come home.

Brig. Gen. Ronald E. Jolly Sr., 82nd Training Wing commander and 27-year veteran of Air Force logistics, said much is made of operations as they happen and their results, combat and humanitarian. But those outcomes begin and end with components that get the force in theater and sustain operations.

The successful implementation and detailed coordination of people and equipment is something that takes more than the snap of a finger and a military order. It takes a skilled set of people to carry out the tasks at hand.

The majority of Sheppard AFB’s training mission in North Texas, at what Jolly calls “Logistics University,” includes logistics functions such as aircraft maintenance, maintenance and munitions officers, civil engineering, and petroleum, oils and lubricants, to name a few. Its reach goes beyond the Lone Star state with missions such as heavy equipment operators at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and F-35 maintainers at the 359th Training Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida, as well as units in Asia and Europe.

“We’ve trained those individuals in our initial-skills training for all of our maintainers, equivalent initial-skills training for our logistics officers – so we gave them the foundation, and now they’re out their honing their skills,” he said. “We are also involved in our advanced training for members with our field training detachments that are out globally helping those Airmen attain the 5- and 7-level skills.”

While producing quality logisticians is paramount, Jolly said it’s important to get feedback from logisticians in the field to keep up with changing times and needs of those down range.

“Getting that feedback from the field helps us improve the training that we are accomplishing here,” he said. “So, we need to adapt to the changing environment – the changing world environment and the changing environment of each one of the missions that we’re out there executing.”

From a big-picture standpoint, the success of logistics operations in the Air Force and the support provided for sister services begins in the schoolhouses at Sheppard AFB. Bringing more of the logistics training enterprise to Sheppard AFB as part of an overarching Logistics University for the Air Force would create a “synergy” and “commonality” that creates a bond within the community, Jolly said.

The general said he can see having a majority of logistics training based at Sheppard AFB in the next 10 to 20 years.

“Now, understand that some of that is not possible just because of space and infrastructure, but when you think across the logistics board – and it’s not just aircraft maintenance, you have LRS (logistics readiness squadron) entities with POL, transportation, civil engineering – you look across the board, we’d like to bring most of that right here so that we can become known as the, no kidding, Logistics University and have a campus dedicated to that,” he said.

The cradle-to-grave training mission of Sheppard AFB matches the vision of Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, of life-long training. He said it requires oversight of the training that’s being provided, tracking the training, understanding the changing environment and improving the Continuum of Learning, a student-centric methodology of instruction.

Jolly said innovation is also an important piece of Kwast’s vision and the CoL. He said schoolhouses are looking to capitalize on available technologies to improve training in the classroom whether it’s at Sheppard AFB or at a detachment overseas.

“It is very crucial that we maintain that focus on the changing environment and the life learning, long-term learning that General Kwast has put in front of us,” he said.

Marquez is credited with transforming and modernizing the Air Force’s logistics mission to one that made sense and turned an inefficient process into one that made sense both on paper and to those on the ground completing the tasks. But it was his leadership and passion for taking care of people, Jolly said, that made the historic changes within logistics possible.

Jolly said if people are given the tools and other assets needed to effectively do their job, they will execute and complete the mission. That’s why he, too, focuses on people as part of his leadership style.

It’s a lesson he learned from an old soldier and in readings about Marquez.

“There’s a former soldier, Charles W. Jolly, my father, that taught me to get out there with your soldiers, see what they do, understand and relate to them,” Jolly said. “You build credibility and they’ll follow you. I think General Marquez had that very same concept and he called it ‘trench time.’ Get out there in the trenches with your folks, understand what they do, relate to them and they will follow you.

“I do my best to take time to get out with the Airmen, understand what they do so that I can relate and hopefully they will follow.”

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