An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

2-star brings unique background to AFCENT leadership team

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Hope Geiger
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command

When it comes to finding a good leader, it does not matter what occupational badge they wear or what background they come from - it's about finding the best person to fill that position. That's what U.S. Air Forces Central Command did when choosing its first non-flying deputy Combined Force Air Component Commander.

According to colonels with more than 90 combined years of Air Force warfighting experience, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, AFCENT’s DCFACC and a space officer by trade, has spent the last year being an exceptional leader and bringing a new perspective to the command.

“He has reinforced all of the space and cyber functions across the different divisions in the Combined Air Operations Center by elevating their stature within the divisions to make sure those pieces are also integrated into everything we do,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Byron Pompa, AFCENT Air, Space, and Information Operations director. “He gave us a better awareness of the multi-domain operations and instituted a lasting policy to ensure we account for multi-domain in our daily operations.”

Saltzman encouraged leaders to look beyond what the command has done in the past and to innovate new or better ways to do them with a particular emphasis in space and cyber.

The AFCENT team is functioning at a very high level, explained Saltzman. According to the colonels, this is due to his ability to bring people together and work as a team. He brought guidance from higher levels and implemented it at the CAOC in a way that made the team successful.

“He would get all the colonels together to talk it out,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Omar Velasco, AFCENT Director of Cyber Forces. "That helped us translate guidance from senior levels into something that we can execute and accomplish.”

Saltzman used his years of leadership experience to get the most out of the team around him.

“What makes a good leader is listening, leading and organizing,” Saltzman said. “I have all the experts around me and I had to synchronize that effort. It’s more about leadership skills than it is about technical background.”

To those who know and encounter “Salty” frequently, they say he achieved success in the job by encouraging discussions and asking open-ended questions.

“He is very good at asking questions which really gave us the ability to open up discussions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Carol O’Neil, AFCENT combat plans division director. “During meetings, he would ask subject matter experts around the room open-ended questions, which created discussions that a lot of great ideas came out of.”

Colleagues at the CAOC explained how this ability to ask thoughtful questions exemplified the general’s critical thinking skills, which improved their ability to explore new ideas.

“His degree of intelligence is what stands out the most because it rubs off when he is discussing strategy, analyzing situations, critical thinking, as he is picking up on issues he doesn't miss any details and, overall, he has a good grasp of complicated subjects,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Theodore Richard, AFCENT legal advisor. “He asks the questions that need to be asked, and he’s interested in seeing what everyone says.”

Saltzman, who brings 28 years of Air Force experience to the job, has established that he is open to all different ideas no matter a person's rank or section that they are assigned to, which stems from his approachable demeanor.

“He is approachable, which instantly makes people comfortable talking to him,” Pompa said. “He gets people to open up to him and provide him honest feedback, analysis and recommendations. I think that is absolutely vital for a senior leader in his position to have the comfort level across different levels of the staff, in terms of rank and divisions, in order to have information necessary to make the proper decisions.”

His calm and encouraging demeanor permeated across the organization, especially in times of tension, Velasco explained, adding that during stressful and high pressure moments he brought everyone together and said “we’ll fight through this together,” which generated confidence in the team.

“Another one of General Saltzman’s greatest strengths that he brought to the team is a ‘we are in this together’ attitude,” Pompa said. “He is part of everything that he tasks out to do and has a team mentality.”

The space background that Saltzman brought to AFCENT leadership is not what defined him as a leader, although it is a part of who he is. Rather, “Salty’s” way of decision-making, critical thinking and how he communicated his vision to the team is how he made a long-lasting imprint on the command. He lead the team during one of the most dynamic years in recent history, which included the Turkish incursion into Syria, theater ballistic missile attacks in Iraq, increased violence in Afghanistan, increased deterrence efforts against Iran, and Shia Militia Groups and Houthi attacks against the U.S. and coalition partners.

“A leader is a good leader, no matter what his career field is,” Richard said. “General Saltzman is terrific, understands the air picture and its needs, asks the right questions and has a great leadership style. I have worked for a lot of general officers and he is one of the absolute smartest I’ve worked with. There are going to be big shoes to fill once he is gone.”