Experiencing the Airlift/Tanker Association symposium for the first time

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. James Fisher
  • 319th ABW Public Affairs
I was one of twelve Airmen from Grand Forks Air Force Base who were fortunate enough to attend the 47th annual Airlift/Tanker Association symposium in Nashville Tennessee this past week.

The three-day symposium is an annual convention held to ensure that American military forces continue to have the air mobility capability required to implement U.S. national security strategy.

The Association is international in scope, with members and chapters throughout the world.  The overarching theme of the 2014 convention was "Air mobility: accomplished by professionals - skilled and respected."

Experiencing the convention for the first time was pretty amazing. Being able to meet people stationed all around the world was fascinating in itself. Additionally, meeting general officers and learning their perspectives on pressing matters certainly reassured me that are Air Force was in good hands.

During the convention there were several keynote speakers, some of which included: Secretary of the Air Force; Deborah Lee James, U.S. Transportation Command commander; Gen. Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander; Gen. Darren McDew, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force; James Cody, and many more. Within the audience we had a very special guest and that was Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient, retired Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson.

Each keynote speaker had their own topic, but all shared a single commonality and that was the importance of Airmen. Secretary James discussed key issues such as current operations tempo, total force, and budget.  Noting that we are a smaller force than what we have been in the past, yet we are more capable today than we ever have been. Many speakers made it a point to thank Airmen for being innovative and encouraged them to continue to be so. 

General Selva spoke of some ways Airmen have been innovative and ultimately saved the Air Force millions of dollars through their ideas. Though much of his speech was about the importance of mobility Airmen, he took his last few minutes to speak on those who are important to our Airmen. At one point during his speech he asked the audience to close their eyes and think of the person that supports, enables, and motivates them to be where they are today.  After a short moment, he then asked everyone to always remember to thank them.

Several times throughout General McDew's speech, he said "I wish you could see our Air Force through my eyes. I love what I see." Each time he said this he would express just how proud he was through several examples of Airmen selflessly serving their country on a daily basis. He took great pride in saying that he held an unrivaled level of trust for the Airmen within his command. Upon departing the stage he challenged Airmen to "be bold and lead."

In addition to these speakers, I was able to attend seminars with ranging topics, all of which shared common themes as well. The way I see it, these themes were: the amazing caliber of mobility Airmen, the importance of working jointly with other branches, and the significance and way forward of the air mobility mission.

All in all, the symposium was a beneficial experience because it informed us of upcoming changes and updates to AMC, facilitated thoughtful discussion, and provided an excellent avenue for networking. I am grateful to have gone and encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity if given to them. Even though we no longer have the tanker mission here at Grand Forks AFB, that doesn't mean we no longer have a mission.  Each day, Warriors of the North play a vital role in the Air Force's global mission and the symposium expressed just that.