DoD senior leaders urge AMC to sustain momentum during annual mobility symposium

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jodi Martinez
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

The 55th Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium brought together 1,500 Mobility Airmen in a single forum in Grapevine, Texas, Nov. 9 – 12, 2023, along with Department of Defense senior leaders and industry partners. 
During the event, themed “Forging Warriors, Projecting America’s Lethality,” Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command, provided his final “State of the Mobility Air Forces,” in which he honored recent MAF actions while urging Airmen to capitalize on accomplishments and triumph over existing and anticipated challenges.   
“I should not be here because of [real-world] chaos, but I’m freaking here,” said Minihan. “That’s because it ain’t really chaos; this team’s got it gripped! What would cripple any other Air Force – cripple – is actually our greatest strength.” 

The MAF’s persistent global mobility presence in the past year – exemplified through Mobility Guardian execution, humanitarian response, and deterrence of adversarial aggression – reaffirmed that Air Mobility Airmen will not shy from adversity, regardless of regional challenges.  

In a virtual keynote address, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall also emphasized AMC’s consistent and reliable footprint throughout the globe over the past year. 

“We’ve had the Ukrainian conflict and our efforts to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression; you’ve been a major component of that,” said Kendall. “We’ve had now the operations in [CENTCOM] where you’re supporting our partners as they’re responding to the devastating attacks that they endured.”   

In the month of October alone, the MAF flew more than 2,100 global missions and nearly 5,500 sorties, transporting more than 27,000 tons of cargo and more than 64,000 passengers. 
This sentiment of the MAF’s ability to “grow from disorder,” as Minihan puts it, was echoed by Department of Defense senior leaders throughout the three-day symposium. 
“You’ve remained agile to fluctuating demands, you’ve embraced the thrash between the scenes, and you’ve ensured the flow of aid is met at the speed of need,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John Sullivan, deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command during his remarks.  

He highlighted the MAF’s response to Türkiye and Syria earthquakes within 24 hours of notification, helping to free 1,000 souls from the rubble alongside 20 NATO Allies and partners. 

Sullivan also highlighted ways in which the MAF anticipates the speed of need and built solutions to meet these requests. AMC’s Maintenance Modernization Team – represented by Timothy Stevens, Boyd Rinderer, Jerry Hunter, and Tech. Sgt. David Shepherd – pursued advanced training environments affecting 13,000 maintenance technicians across 23 locations. This resulted in saving $16 million and 10,000 man hours, cutting aircraft usage 40 percent, and increasing maintenance training 30 percent.   

Chief Master Sgt. Jamie Newman, AMC command chief, asserted that the Air Force’s historical dominance, as well as its continued dominance, is a direct result of the Airmen who recognize embracing failure as a vital component to being victorious.  

"We have a problem in the Air Force,” Newman said. “We don’t know how to lose... We’re gonna have Airmen who are doing things we haven’t even thought of yet.” 

Minihan emphasized that Airmen like this, who “drive” rather than allowing themselves to “be driven,” is exactly the requirement to generate irreversible momentum to match and exceed future requirements. The sense of urgency was expressed among other senior leaders in attendance. 

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, who spoke on the second day of the symposium, stressed the necessity of change to defend the nation and its interests.  

“You are going to see more change in the next four to six years than I have seen in my entire 30-year career,” said Bass. “And it’s about time.” 

Kendall said Airmen can expect to see evolutions in next generation capability, contingency response, and the approach to the Air Force Force Generation process as it applies to the MAF.  

“When I came into office I was focused on modernization and we set up the seven operational imperatives, as we call them, to address our most pressing operational problems,” said Kendall. “We’ve moved forward with that and placed a lot of things into our budget and identified additional things through exercises like Mobility Guardian.” 

To effectively respond to combatant commands’ requirements spanning across every geographic area of responsibility, AMC has identified command and control, connectivity, command relationships and exploding into theater as crucial focus areas following MG23.   

“As ready as we are, we need to be more ready,” said Minihan. “As integrated as we are, we need to be more integrated. As agile as we are, we need to be more agile. Can this team – can this family – have the tough conversation with itself on how to aggressively close the gaps?” 

Minihan believes the answer is ‘yes.’ 

Attendees had access to 10 keynote speeches and 20 seminars addressing evolutions in education, leadership, and Agile Combat Employment, to include seminars specific to MG23 lessons learned, post-MG23 actions, game-changing initiatives, and leveraging emotional intelligence for combat readiness.  

Additionally, MAF Airmen and spouses were recognized for personal and professional achievements, and 337 medals were awarded to Airmen for their actions taken during Operation Allies Refuge. 

The Palmetto Military Support Group supporting Joint Base Charleston won this year’s Abilene Trophy, which recognizes the community that best supports an Air Mobility Command base throughout the year.  

Mary Graham from the PMSG received the Tampa Bay Trophy for exhibiting sustained and enduring service to the community. 

All keynote speeches and select AMC seminars can be accessed through the 2023 A/TA Symposium feature page.