KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE – Senior leaders from 20th Air Force units gathered for their semiannual Senior Leadership Conference at Kirtland AFB, N.M., April 6-9.
Maj. Gen. Michael Lutton, 20 AF commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Orf, 20 AF command chief, met with senior leaders in the nuclear enterprise from Kirtland AFB, N.M., F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, Minot AFB, North Dakota, and Vandenberg AFB, California.
Col. David Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander at Kirtland AFB, spoke about the value of the SLC.
“It is incredibly beneficial to host Maj. Gen. Lutton, Chief Orf, and all my fellow command teams from across 20th Air Force. Events like this are where we establish and build on the common operating picture that drives our collective actions in support of the mission. One of the highlights was the opportunity to share and collaborate on our best practices and lessons learned from our combined experiences,” he said.
Subject areas during the conference included a discussion of 20 AF goals and objectives for the year, presentations on the command’s history, mental health, renewable energy, mission hardware and equipment, geopolitical matters, and diversity and inclusion. Former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, retired Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, spoke about core values and ethics in leadership. Attendees also toured the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
Editor’s note: We asked the 20 AF command team, Maj. Gen. Lutton and Chief Master Sgt. Orf, a series of questions during the SLC. Their responses are below:
Q: What are your priorities?
Lutton: “As a command team, our No. 1 priority is integrated lethality. The end product we’re looking for is lethality. One can try to get that individually, but teams are much more effective. By ‘integrated,’ we mean, for example, here at the 377th, the maintenance group partnering with the mission support group. Or at an operational ICBM wing, the security forces group and maintenance group partnering together. For us to execute our mission, the individual players are the helicopter group, the maintenance group, security forces group, and the operations group. There’s only so far they can go in developing lethality in their group. To get to the next level, they have to integrate across those groups. That’s what we’re striving for. The second priority is leading nuclear weapons safety and surety. Our third priority is developing and caring for Airmen and families.
Q: What is going well?
Lutton: “From an Airmen-development perspective, the Airmen have been resourceful in how we’ve been able to continue to develop them through a global pandemic. There are some areas where, as we begin to transition, we’ll go back to more in-residence opportunities What also goes well is their ability, day in and day out, to execute the mission, maintain readiness, and make sure they’re taking care of the families They’ve got to balance those three things – mission, readiness, families – and we’re mindful of that as a command team, in or outside of a pandemic.
Orf: “In the pandemic, Airmen are still finding ways to be resourceful and innovative, and getting after solutions that they’ve learned because of the pandemic that will be enduring even after the pandemic.”
Lutton: “A great example of that is if you look at some of the innovation that many of our wings have done to utilize during the pandemic will be utilized well after the pandemic. Like the Tiger Medics here, the mobile medics – that’s just a smart way to do business. The 90th Missile Wing developed an app for the COVID-19 vaccination appointments that’ll be used well past the pandemic, for all kinds of other activities that support mission readiness. You can see examples with the Roughriders, the helicopter group, the flight test squadron, and the 341st Missile Wing. The creative, innovative solutions have been really powerful.”
Q: What could be going better?
Lutton: “You can always be better. The areas we want to continue to work on are more-integrated exercises, and how we get after advanced training. It goes back to that priority of integrated lethality. How do we look at our different disposition of forces – whether it’s a helicopter group, maintenance group, security forces group, operations group, medical, mission support – when we do high-end exercises, what does that look like, and how do we get after that on a more routine, recurring basis? We’ve been getting after it, but I think the tempo of the exercises and the training is one we want to pick up on.”
Q: What challenges/opportunities do you see in the near future?
Lutton: “Challenges and opportunities are interchangeable. It’s how you approach that opportunity. One of the things we do as a command team is talk to the Airmen and the commanders about, ‘Not “no,” but “how?” If you approach a challenge or opportunity and you say, ‘I can’t do this because of X, Y or Z,’ then you kind of channelize yourself down a course of action that may limit actual results, as opposed to, ‘How can I do this?’ We see that in the pandemic, but we even see that outside the pandemic. OK, well here’s the rule sets that we’re given for the pandemic – like this senior leadership conference. A year ago, we’d have never thought of doing something like this. Now, I’ve got the rules, and it’s not, ‘No,’ but “How?’ I’m going to do it in a large room, have people spaced out, wear masks, and so on. It’s that mindset of ‘How do we approach this opportunity?’”
Orf: “From an operational perspective, there’s so much going on in Global Strike, 20th Air Force is at the center of practically all of it. In the next 15 years, it’s going to be transformational, what happens in this NAF. Whether it be a new weapons system, new procedures, new payload transporter, new transporter-erector – the opportunity is there to transform how we do operations. It’s making sure that our Airmen understand the commander’s intent, and that there’s a clear understanding of how much we value decentralized execution based on that, and Airmen understanding that they have that capability.”
Q: Are there any Kirtland-specific issues you’re tracking?
Lutton: “What I saw was a really good discussion on renewable energy. Kirtland is leading the way there. That’s very powerful. Energy security translates to national security – they’re not independent of each other. How do we leverage the great work that Chief Stamper and Col. Miller are doing here with partnership, and how do you export that, and at scale? You have a demonstration here, but how do you export it to different locations, not only in 20th Air Force, but across our Air Force?”
Orf: “Some of the things they’re doing from a physical security perspective – that can have impact on how we do expeditionary security force operations. They’re at the cutting edge of that technology here.”
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Lutton: “It’s been a very good senior leader conference, very engaging. We appreciate the opportunity to get together with the leaders from across the Numbered Air Force and Global Strike, thankful for their service and the sacrifice of their families.”
Orf: “Kirtland is an ideal location to have a conference like this, because this is where the birth of our enterprise happened. It’s an opportunity not only to come together where we are now and where we’re going in 20th Air Force, but also an opportunity to learn where we come from, and instill in us the relevance of what we do. We can see some things that are key to our heritage of what we do in 20th Air Force.”