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Gen. Shelton visit to 24th AF
General William Shelton, after taking over as the new Air Force Space Command commander Jan. 5, speaks to a standing room only crowd during his first visit to 24th Air Force Jan. 11. General Shelton visited 24th Air Force Jan. 11 through 13 to learn more about the nascent cyber command, and make his priorities and expectations known. (U.S. Air Force photo by Theodore Koniares)
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New AFSPC commander visits 24th AF

Posted 1/13/2011   Updated 1/18/2011 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Scott McNabb
24th Air Force Public Affairs

1/13/2011 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- General William Shelton, after taking command of Air Force Space Command Jan. 5, visited 24th Air Force Jan. 11 through 13 to learn more about the nascent cyber command, and make his priorities and expectations known.

Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, 24th Air Force commander, introduced General Shelton and called the moment a "huge opportunity for us as a 24th Air Force team to meet the new boss."

Then, General Shelton addressed the audience. "It's great to be here at Lackland," said the new commander. "It's no accident I came here first."

He noted the huge mission changes since he was a staff officer at AFSPC in 1986.

"[Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] are gone from the command and cyber is in," he said. "I'm here to learn."

General Shelton called the 24th Air Force's actions to go from bare bones to a fully operational numbered air force in such a short time "an impressive accomplishment."

The commander then unveiled his top three priorities for the command.

He said his first priority is to support the joint fight. "I see it as a moral obligation. I hope you see it the same way."

General Shelton's second priority is to control the cost of space systems. He said that while costs directly attributed to the space mission may not be fully applicable to the cyber mission, there are some shared functions. In some cases, there are good information technology programs that never become operational. So AFSPC, as a whole, needs to make sure its priorities are right when programs are presented for funding, he said.

"We have got to do that as an Air Force and we'll do that in Air Force Space Command," he said.

The general's third priority is to operationalize and normalize the cyber mission.

"That's what you do every day and what I'm here to help you with," he said. "Are we there yet? I think General Webber would jump out of his chair and tackle me if I said that, but we're getting there."

General Shelton said times have changed and commanders depend on the information cyber operators provide.

"This is an age where the guy with the best information wins," he said. "Information-enabled warfare depends on the cyber mission and the space mission."

With two of the three Air Force domains under the responsibility of AFSPC, General Shelton said the 24th Air Force mission is "critically important."

General Shelton then transitioned from his priorities to his expectations. The commander said while the mission is vital, the people make the difference in the success or failure of cyber operations.

"We're in a highly rewarding and exacting mission with very little room for error," he said. "Make sure you're setting the right climate for your people." He continued, stating that so much depends on the first-line supervisors of Airman fresh out of technical school and officers fresh out of commissioning programs.

"A bad supervisor might produce a very short career path and a good supervisor might produce the next chief of staff of the Air Force or the next chief master sergeant of the Air Force," he explained. "We all need to produce excellence in supervisory roles."

General Shelton made a point to talk about the rising suicide rates in the Air Force. He said while the other services are also struggling with increased suicides that outnumber the Air Force's percentages, everyone needs to do their part to reverse the trend.

The general said the struggle to decrease suicide rates in the Air Force stems from the fact that when research is done to provide a "look back" to leadership, nothing in particular stands out pointing to why suicides are at an all-time high in the service. He said he will rely on supervisors to be the first line in suicide prevention.

AFSPC will not stand back and hope the problem simply rights itself, he said, but instead, resiliency programs will be pushed throughout the command.

The general stated that he expects every work center to be free of inequality.

"There needs to be an environment of equality in the Air Force that is unassailable," he said. "It ought to be that everyone has the full opportunity to reach their potential."

As part of that philosophy, the commander said he expects the men and women of AFSPC to be patient and respectful during the roll out of the don't ask, don't tell repeal.

"You need to set whatever personal feelings, either pro or con, aside," he said. The general also mentioned training about how the repeal will be initiated is coming soon.

General Shelton's last expectation is that everyone does their part to be more energy efficient.

"We are going to take some reductions" in funding based on energy efficiencies, he said. "On an individual basis, let's do what we can."

General Shelton finished the session by taking questions from members of 24th Air Force, and then continued on a tour of the different units and mission areas of the numbered air force and its local wings.

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