By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs
When Lt. Gen. Mike Gould accepted the Air Force Academy guidon from Gen. Norton Schwartz less than a year ago, the chief of staff lightheartedly shared a few words of advice with his fellow Academy graduate: “Don’t screw it up, Gould.” In a series of superintendent’s calls Wednesday, General Gould credited people from all of the Academy’s mission elements for making “tremendous progress” in continuing to develop leaders of character.
“I’m really proud of what you’ve done, and I want to encourage you to continue the momentum as we have fun with graduation and get ready to roll back into the cycle and do it again,” he said.
The general outlined his vision toward developing a sense of fanatical institutional pride – a vision for which respect is part of the foundation, along with character, people, families and setting an exemplar for others. He spent much of the first year evaluating the current state of the Academy.
“Knowing that the Academy was in good shape when I got here, I didn’t want to change a bunch of things, and we haven’t had to,” he said. “I credit my predecessor and the team before I got here with having done an awful lot to get us on the right vector.”
One of the things General Gould said he wants to encourage through the rest of his tenure is reaching out to surrounding communities, including Colorado Springs, Monument, Falcon and Manitou Springs.
“We want to get out and tell the good story about what we’re doing here and start building this pride at the individual level,” he said.
In the third and fourth years of his tenure, the general said he wants people to understand the Academy’s role in the continuing operations overseas, including current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and future counterterrorism efforts.
“We want to reach out to everybody and make sure everyone at the Academy understands what the joint, coalition, interagency war that we’ll be involved in today and will continue to be involved in for some time is all about,” he said. And as the Academy continues beyond 2013, the general aims for “continual growth to take excellence to a new level.”
General Gould discussed fostering a culture of diversity and respect, highlighted changes that are underway based on input from Academy team members and recapped the first year of his tenure here during the superintendent’s calls.
“I want to make sure we’re all on the same page with regard to a couple of issues, and the first is diversity,” he said. “When we look at our new cadets, we think about getting all sorts of people from all backgrounds here on this team – not only at the Academy but also so we can develop them to lead throughout our Air Force.
“And here’s why: regardless of your own background and what you might think about this, I will tell you, diversity equals strength,” he explained. “More and better ideas come forward when you have a diverse group of people contributing … whether you’re talking about a classroom setting, an athletic team, a flying squadron or a civil engineering outfit – it doesn’t matter. If you get different ideas in, you’re going to be more successful.”
Another reason for the focus on diversity is to have an Air Force that reflects the society it defends, General Gould said. However, diversity does not mean establishing quotas or lowering standards.
“We will continue to uphold the highest standards, but we will do it by making sure people from all walks of life have the opportunity to come in here and make our Air Force stronger,” he said.
Diversity and a culture of respect go hand-in-hand, General Gould said, adding that he is pleased with the culture of respect that has developed at the Academy in recent years. He recalled the story of a basic cadet from the Class of 2013 who complained of having been proselytized when the cadet went to see a chaplain.
“It was handled within the Cadet Wing, up through the air officers commanding, through the leadership to where we could put the pieces together with no retribution toward anyone,” he said. “The individual who felt … forced or coerced into a certain type of belief was able to talk about it, and we ironed it out right there. We have to have that environment where we respect one another for our backgrounds and for our beliefs, no matter what they are. That’s the only way I know we can have a strong team.”
Because the Academy has built a climate of respect, General Gould said he is not worried about whether Congress will allow homosexuals to serve openly by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was passed in 1993.
“Regardless of what happens with the law, we will implement it fairly and smartly, and we will do it because we will foster this climate of respect,” the general said. “Remind yourself of what we say in the Airman’s Creed: ‘Wingman, leader, warrior … I will never leave an Airman behind, I will never falter, and I will not fail.’ It doesn’t matter what our background is; it doesn’t matter our gender or our race. This is the idea that unites us as one team, and it encompasses everyone in the room: officer and enlisted; active duty, Reserve and Guard; civilian and contractor. We’re all one team, and this is the creed that we follow.
“We all agree to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic – one team, one fight, with one common purpose,” he continued. “That’s what respect is all about, and that’s why this team is as strong as it is.”
General Gould reviewed some of the issues Academy personnel had broached with him shortly after he assumed command, including the state of the computer networks, the food at Mitchell Hall and the base’s aging infrastructure.
“First of all, on the network: this is not an easy nut to crack,” he said. “Lt. Col. Don Fielden is setting up an A6 (communications) directorate so we get the policy piece right. He’s established a great relationship with the 10th Communications Squadron and with communications elements throughout the base.” The Academy recently spent $500,000 to upgrade its server architecture, and the 10th Air Base Wing is laying fiber optic cable to improve bandwidth on the base networks, General Gould said.
Meanwhile, 10th ABW Commander Col. Rick LoCastro and his team have looked at ways to eliminate waste at Mitchell Hall so that cadets get “premier meals at the right time,” General Gould said.
Additionally, “we’re letting the cadets know so that they don’t find out about meals the day after, and they’re not saying, ‘Oh, man, I should have gone to dinner last night,'” he added. “It takes a lot of effort, but the Mitchell Hall staff is saving money, and they’re putting the money they’re saving to good use.”
General Gould reviewed several highlights from the 2009-2010 academic year, including Class of 2013 inprocessing, Firefighter Challenge, the new Unmanned Aerial System program and some of the year’s guest speakers. He returned to the topic of graduation and focused on the Class of 2010, which will graduate May 26.
“I want you to think about what it is these young men and women are going to do,” he said, pointing out the number of cadets who will go into Air Force specialties such as combat rescue, special tactics and air liaison. “These cadets from the Class of 2010 are ready – they are ready to go. But they would not be ready to lead in our Air Force and beyond if it weren’t for the great work that the entire team has done across all mission elements. My overall message to you all is, keep up the great work. You have accomplished so much.”