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Former Air Mobility Command senior leaders provide insight during heritage panel

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --

To commemorate Air Mobility Command’s activation 24 years ago in June 1992 and to launch its 25th Anniversary year for 2017, the AMC Office of History is hosting a series of heritage panels during the next two years.

The panels focus on different time periods and will have speakers from a variety of positions, including numbered air forces, directorates, and the 618th Air Operations Center. The panel discussions also serve to highlight the events and accomplishments of AMC’s personnel over the last 25 years, and pays respect to those who helped make AMC into the Command it is today.

The first of these panels was held June 1 and included three former senior leaders from 1992-97:

  • Gen. William Begert, former AMC Inspector General, 1992-94; and Commander of the Air Mobility Warfare Center (now designated as the USAF Expeditionary Center), 1994-95;
  • Lt. Gen. John Sams, former Tanker Airlift Control Center commander, 1993-94; the AMC vice commander, 1996-98; and the 15th Air Force commander, 1998-2000; and
  • Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, former AMC Staff Judge Advocate, 1992-96.

During the panel, the former senior leaders talked about the changes AMC has gone through in the past two decades.

“I think the most outstanding thing that stands out to me coming back into the building is that there are a lot less uniforms in the building,” said Sams.

“You could very easily jump to conclusions that that’s bad. I think most of us thought it would be, as we saw our rated slots go away and turn into civilian slots. I would say that may have been a blessing in disguise, because what the command has been able to do is hire people with tremendous experience as they retired and came back as civilians.

“We don’t lose that experience, and then we build continuity in the command … as time goes by. I think that has worked in our favor.”

Begert said he was interested in meeting with today’s Inspector General staff to learn about how they conduct their operations.

“The transformation the Air Force has gone through, and how we conduct unit inspections, is very different today than what we did in the early 90’s,” said Begert. “In the early 90’s, we were also in a period of great transition. We did Operational Readiness Inspections and Unit Effectiveness Inspections. I was very interested in what the IG staff had to say, because I’m a retiree and very skeptical of the new system and how it was going to work, and whether the AMC commander and other major command commanders will be well served by really knowing what the readiness level is.

“In our era, we lived through the late 70’s when the AF was flat on its back for readiness, and it took some very strong leadership to put all that back together as the Reagan administration came in, so we had pretty strong feelings about readiness. I asked a lot of questions about the new system and feel a whole lot better about it. I thought that was great.”

Total Force Association has been a big Air Force priority, and finding an effective way to use guard and reserve units, in tandem with active duty components, can be challenging. Hemingway discussed the importance of integration and the differences he has seen.

“From an operational aspect, I think the biggest change I noticed is that the Air Guard is much more integrated into the daily operations,” Hemingway said. “That was a real problem when I was here before. It had manifested itself in a number of different ways. We had a C-130 crash in Evansville. It was an Indiana Guard unit, and Gen. (Ronald) Fogleman sent me over there to look around.

“When I got there, I walked around the headquarters building. The unit had converted the year and a half before from F-16s to C-130s.

“I walked every hall there and there was not a single picture of a C-130 in that headquarters building. They all had pictures of F-16s. When I went to talk to the commander, he was very emphatic in saying that they meet guard standards. I told Fogleman what was missing was the phrase, ‘we meet AF standards.’ I think today, that’s the answer you would get; we meet AF standards.”