August 2012, The Pentagon. I had just reported for duty on what would become my last assignment in uniform. Gen. Mark Welsh had just taken over as Air Force chief of staff. Having recently served in Germany, I was very familiar with him; he was the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe for part of my tour there, and I’d heard him speak on numerous occasions.
Flying machines have only been around for a little over 100 years, but the state of human aviation as a military discipline has always been dynamic. The U.S. Army adopted airplanes in 1907 under the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, but the uniformed piloting of airplanes has never been without controversy.
Most people haven’t heard of an elderly Belgian-Congolese nurse named Augusta Chiwy. But students of history know that adversity and dread can turn on a dime into freedom and change, and it’s often the most humble and little-known individuals who are the drivers of it.
If you’ve spent any time in uniform or in the corporate world, the term “leadership” can be an enigma. It’s a confounding term, really, because it’s nebulous. It means different things to different people, and different types of it can be useful (or not) depending on a particular situation. Despite the ambiguity, most people know when it’s in place, or when it’s desperately needed.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the beach with my grandparents in Ocean City, New Jersey. I have fond memories, many of them of my grandfather humming something while working or cooking. Once I asked him what song he was singing, and he answered “the Air Corps song.”
Since I left college in 1995 and entered the workforce, I’ve had a lot of stimulating conversations with my dad about how broken our government is, and he has often insisted that it’s worse now than it’s ever been before. Maybe. I guess there are more than a few Americans who would agree with his suggestion that politicians are less trustworthy today than ever before in our 240-year history.