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Winning today and tomorrow: AFCENT commander outlines new priorities

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Monica Ricci
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command

AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR –  Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot knows two things remain true in the ever-changing theater of U.S. Air Forces Central Command: strong partnerships and hardworking Airmen are key to winning the war.

The new AFCENT commander returns to the organization after previously serving as its deputy commander from April 2018 to May 2019. Although he has been extremely impressed with the work he has seen in his return and admits not much needs to be changed, he has established a new set of priorities to help the command adapt to ongoing developments in the theater.  

“You’ll still see that we want to win today’s fight,” Guillot said in regards to his new priorities. “We also want to make sure that we are postured to prevail tomorrow, we deter aggression throughout the region, and certainly we want to build upon the partnerships that we have with our partner countries, components and agencies. What I also really want to do with the priorities is make sure there is an emphasis on the importance that I place on equality, ensuring that all Airmen work in an environment where they can prosper and develop and work freely with other Airmen.”

Guillot added the key to AFCENT’s role in winning today’s fight is the successful execution of the Air Tasking Order. The ATO is a document that originates from the Combined Air Operations Center here and details how AFCENT can provide air power to support the U.S. Central Command, Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support commanders.

While winning today’s fight through ATO execution is demanding, posturing for tomorrow can be particularly challenging, Guillot said, as it requires flexibility and intellect to adapt to the dynamic environment.

“We need to think and plan about the potential adversaries and challenges we face in the theater, and then we need to build our combat generation platforms to make sure they can accommodate those plans,” Guillot said. “Sometimes that’s adapting a base, and sometimes that’s building new bases or flying from different locations to do that.”

Chief Master Sgt. John Storms, the new AFCENT command chief, highlighted that the strong relationships he’s experienced in AFCENT are critical to the command’s ability to succeed.

“I have basically grown up in this AOR, from when I was a young Airman until now,” Storms said. “I love what this theater brings out in people, just the ingenuity and positive attitudes. It’s our ability to not only work with our sister services and our coalition members, but all of the countries in the AOR - it is really rewarding.”

And then there’s things you cannot plan for, like the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s forced the command to become more innovative in day-to-day operations, but it has not slowed down the fight. Guillot said he is impressed with how seriously the Airmen are taking the threat and wants to remind them it’s not time to let their guard down.

“None of the missions or Airmen that we have here in this theater can be immediately replaced,” Guillot said. “We’re doing a mission of national importance, so we cannot afford to be down for the count by COVID. That’s why I really emphasize that we need to take the actions ahead of time to make sure we stay ahead of the virus.”

Whether it’s the Airmen’s efforts in executing the ATO or mitigating the threat of COVID-19, Guillot said he’s extremely proud to be a part of the AFCENT team. It’s a team he wants everyone to feel valued and included in, down to the lowest level.

“I want to make sure that Airmen all across AFCENT have no barriers to be whomever they want to be,” Guillot said. “So in meetings or out on the flight line, in the DFAC, wherever they are in the theater, they should be able to look at somebody who is in a position that they’d like to be in, and there should be no barrier for them ever being in that position.”

Guillot said he is working with leadership at AFCENT’s air expeditionary wings to ensure there are forums at all levels to give Airmen the opportunity to talk through issues of equality and their workplace environment.

“I think my position on it is very clear,” Guillot said. “Hopefully people will take that all the way down the line and make sure that we live in an environment where Airmen can prosper, where they can contribute, and they don’t have to worry about whether they are valued. They know just coming in the door and being a part of this team that we value everybody equally.”

Storms said he has witnessed progress toward building a culture of equality over the course of his career.

“Getting to know people as people and understanding what their strengths, weaknesses, challenges and concerns are, we’ve come a long way in the Air Force,” Storms said. “Twenty-five or 30 years ago, a one-stripe Airman didn’t have an opinion on anything. They did, but nobody cared to hear it. I think we’ve made great strides.”

As both Guillot and Storms continue to move forward with leading the team, they want to make sure Airmen are looking out for each other and operating in a way that fosters strong, lasting morale. There are three elements to sustaining morale, according to the general: Airmen must know their job is important, Airmen must be properly trained and equipped to do that job, and they must be appreciated for their hard work.

“I get to see a lot of the videos and stories from across the AOR,” Guillot said. “It’s really motivating, and sometimes I’ll admit, it kind of chokes you up when you see just how hard some people are working and the great contributions the Airmen are making. 

When we have the partnerships and the Airmen that we do, I have no concerns about tomorrow.”