Generals take charge of Air Commanders Symposium

You are airmen and you have a culture and tradition of being airmen, back to the Lafayette Escadrille to Doolittle to the Tuskegee Airmen, back to Chennault and the Flying Tigers. 

General T. Michael Moseley

The United States Air Force Academy welcomed four distinguished Air Force generals to headline the Air Commanders Symposium on April 11 in the Academy’s Arnold Hall Theater. Retired four-star generals Charles Horner, Hal Hornburg, John Jumper, and T. Michael Moseley explored the topic of Air Campaigns and Air Force Leadership since 1990.

Coordinated through the Academy’s Department of Military and Strategic Studies and the Center for Character and Leadership Development, the symposium was part of the center’s Profession of Arms Speaker Series and the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. 

The symposium is supported by The Boeing Company through the Boeing Profession of Arms Speaker Series Fund. See event photos

Sharing insights learned from his first combat mission over North Vietnam through his last assignment as commander in chief over NORAD, Horner emphasized the importance of balancing the incredible power of the U.S. military with a desire to harness that power as a weapon for peace.

“What is the purpose of our military?” he asked the cadets. “It really only has one purpose: to kill people and destroy things. That’s the only reason we exist. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t like that, and it is pretty heinous when you think about it, but if we’re really good at what we do, then we won’t have to do it.”

Horner wielded the power of the U.S. Air Force when he commanded U.S. and allied air operations for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

“We fought Desert Storm as intensely and as viciously as possible to get it over with, to limit the loss of life,” he said. “Once you loose the dogs of war, you can’t put them back in the cage and so you better get it over with as soon as possible, otherwise, what you do then becomes obscene.”

The threat of nuclear engagement heightens the need for leaders of integrity. “The proliferation of nuclear weapons is the biggest threat to the whole world right now,” Horner said. 

His advice for Academy cadets is to lead with character and courage.

“Always be open and honest in everything you do,” Horner said. “Have integrity, tell the truth, know what you’re talking about and be forceful, and don’t be afraid. Go for it.”  

Hornburg commanded a composite fighter wing during Operation Desert Storm and directed sensitive air operations over Bosnia during Operation Deliberate Force, paying special attention to maximizing damage to enemy targets while minimizing civilian casualties. He also served as air component commander for U.S. Joint Forces Command and air component commander for U.S. Northern Command.

Jumper was the commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces during operations Northern and Southern Watch, and the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe during Operation Allied Force, targeting Serbian troops that had invaded Kosovo. His tour as Air Force chief of staff spanned Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Jumper’s nearly 40 years of distinguished service helped him develop “Jumper’s Rules of Life” that Academy cadets can strive to emulate. His number one rule covers it all: “Your most meaningful memories will be the times when your character, integrity, endurance, stamina or fortitude were most challenged and you had the courage to do the right thing.”

Moseley was in the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11 when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the west side of the complex, killing 125 inside the building and all 64 passengers on the plane.

“The continued images of both the towers burning and the Pentagon burning, American citizens jumping out of buildings and the sacrifices made by the fire department of New York, the special ladder companies and the police department of New York, still leave me with a sense of outrage,” Moseley said.

That outrage strengthened his resolve to tackle a series of strategic Air Force assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to serve as the chief of staff of the Air Force from 2005 to 2008.

Moseley stressed the importance of building relationships based on integrity and trust that will help define their careers and strengthen cohesion within the Air Force.

“You are airmen and you have a culture and tradition of being airmen, back to the Lafayette Escadrille to Doolittle to the Tuskegee Airmen, back to Chennault and the Flying Tigers,” he said. “You have an approach to warfare that is unique from the Army or the Navy.”

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