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  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Hickey
  • 451st AEW Command Chief Master Sergeant
Looking back over the last 20 years and into the next 20 years, it strikes me that it's never been more important for America to have a force of flexible Airmen that can quickly adjust and react across a broad spectrum. You only have to look back at the last couple of contingencies and humanitarian efforts to see the complexity of what we could expect in the future.

The last couple of wars have proven themselves to be significantly different from what we anticipated and offered unique challenges. Wars in Eastern Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan and the no-fly zone in Libya each offered challenging scenarios that required significantly different solutions. Nonetheless, we overcame (or are overcoming) those scenarios with "out of the box" thinking and adaptation.

Similarly, humanitarian and relief efforts have required a large degree of flexibility and adaptability of our forces. The flooding of New Orleans, tsunami in East Asia, Haitian earthquake, and the events still unfolding in Japan have offered unique challenges that we needed to, or will need to overcome.

Although none of us can anticipate when, where, and in what capacity our Airmen will be called into action in the future, we can take some basic and very important measures to prepare ourselves. The two that I believe to be the most important are the training and the advanced education of our Airmen.

When I say training, I'm not just talking about learning how to do our daily jobs or prepare for what we "expect" our future holds. I'm talking about bringing our training to the next level and fully understanding our mission capabilities and resources. Understanding them so well that we are able to rapidly employ them in response to a scenario that we haven't even imagined.

That type of training is not something the Air Force teaches you... at least not in a formal technical school. It's what they teach you in less obvious ways through things like PME and creative exercise scenarios. Most of it, however, comes from our on-the-job experiences... which fortunately have been extremely diverse over the last 20 years. We truly do have the most experienced Airmen in history and that training/experience level will undoubtedly prove key to any future operations.

Going beyond training, I believe the advanced education is, and will continue to be, critically important to the Air Force. The benefit of formally educating our Airmen is that it exposes them to different ideas and concepts that we don't cover though the course of our normal training programs. It goes beyond what we know we must prepare for and expands into scenarios we can't even imagine yet.

Concepts and education in fields seemingly unrelated to military service could very well be critical the next time we are called into service. Having this broad formal education base helps expand our knowledge base so that we can bring more tools to the task when our Airmen are faced with something we haven't anticipated and prepared for in our training programs.

So what does the future hold for us? Will we be called to war again next week or will we respond to another natural disaster? Or will it be some event we haven't even thought of? The truth is, none of us know. All we can do is support and encourage our Airmen to train and pursue advanced education opportunities so they will be prepared for anything. I have the ultimate faith that we will rise to any challenge and support America's interest as we Fly, Fight and Win!