An amazing week (opinion)

  • Published
  • By Jean E. Rolles, Vice President of Community Affairs, Outrigger Enterprises
  • PACAF Air Force Civilian Advisory Council
I recently attended the 54th National Security Forum at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. at the invitation of Gen. Paul V. Hester, commander of Pacific Air Forces.

This event is hosted by the Air War College under the U.S. Air Force's Air University, the Air Force's center for professional military studies. The Forum is sponsored by the Secretary of the Air Force and began in 1954. It's designed to provide civilians and military members to candidly exchange their views on national security matters. It allows civilians from all over the country to gain a better understanding of our nation's armed forces and at the same time allows AWC students a chance to interact with a cross-section of civilian leaders.

The students at the AWC make up a select group of military officers from diverse backgrounds who are brought together for 10 months of graduate-level study. It's like earning a master's degree except that the courses focus on topics such as air and space power, national and international security studies, strategy formulation, the employment of joint forces, and the ethics of command and leadership. The vision of the AWC is the "foremost center for air, space and cyberspace education and thought - preparing the world's best joint strategic leaders."

We met, in general sessions of the whole college, with speakers such as Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff; Hon. Michael Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force; and Charles Kosak, Principal Director of the Office of African Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

We also had special sessions on "Islam and the West," "China and Regional Security" and "the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." The best part was that we met twice a day in small seminar groups with the AWC students to discuss issues that were on everyone's mind. The discussions were quite frank and animated; everyone had something to say and respected all opinions.

Each seminar group consisted of 20 military personnel, mostly Air Force but also representatives of other military branches; in fact my group included Marine and Army officers. The career specialties of the Air Force officers in the groups were a cross section of responsibilities; they included pilots, maintenance, supply, space, nursing, and staff officers from the Pentagon.

Military officers from 45 different nations also attend the AWC and they were involved in the seminar discussions. My group had officers from Norway and Egypt. The civilians in my group also represented various career fields; my group included a retired police chief, a small-town mayor, a banker, a professor, a public relations executive, and a hotel executive - me! This diversity brought forth many perspectives and encouraged lively dialogue. Some of the issues we spent some time discussing included defense budget cuts and personnel reductions, a new military command area covering all of Africa (U.S. Africa Command), and cyberspace warfare.

The Forum was a fascinating, fully-packed, five-day experience. The week ended with a fabulous air show featuring many types of aircraft including the Air Force's newest fighter, the F-22A Raptor (which the Hawaii Air National Guard will soon fly) and the F-16 Viper. Truly heart-stopping!