12th Air Force commander talks resiliency with Airmen

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — “You live in the best time ever,” Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, 12th Air Force commander and Air Forces Southern commander, told members of the 552nd Air Control Wing recently.

The general spoke at an all-call March 30, sharing a positive message for the troops regarding leadership, the four pillars of wellness and the great work the Airmen in the 552nd ACW are doing in support of America.

“There has been no other time in a richer country with more money, more free time, privilege and convenience,” he said. “You live in a golden time.”

The general thanked the young troops for joining the Air Force during a time of war.

“That says you are willing to die for what you believe in,” General Nowland said. “The Air Force is the best, and you are part of the 1 percent standing up to defend America, and I thank you for that.”

General Nowland followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Air Force. Both fighter pilots, the general said one thing they both have in common is change. He said the world is constantly changing, as evidenced by all of the new technology we’ve seen in just the last five years.

General Nowland laid out the rules for survival, which included using operational risk management in everything, mutual support in all things, being a good Wingman, communication and, lastly, being an expert at everything you do.

The general reminded everyone to “get after” working on themselves through the four pillars of wellness.

“Go to the gym!” he said. “Walk, do push-ups at your desk, move around because you’re going to live a long time.”

He said everyone should be thinking in a time stream, or blocks of time, to prepare for the long haul.

The general reminded everyone to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them because they will be more effective and better at what they do, while preparing them for their second or third career after leaving the Air Force.

Speaking on the spiritual pillar, General Nowland said he doesn’t care what a person’s faith is. “I believe we have a spiritual side and when you don’t tend to it, bad things get inside your head and your paperwork ends up on my desk,” said the general, who serves as a court-martial authority.

He spoke of being a good Wingman, especially with sexual assaults and suicides rising in the Air Force.

“Sexual assault is a cultural problem and you should all talk to your kids about it,” said General Nowland, adding that most cases he sees involve alcohol. “As supervisors, we need to ask the questions because it is in the debriefing that we learn the intention.”

The general said as Wingmen, it is our job to know about our co-workers. He told a story of a master sergeant who didn’t show up for work one day. The sergeant had gone out on his back patio and shot himself — and no one knew anything was wrong.

“A good Wingman would have known that the sergeant had recently divorced and that his stepdaughter had died, but they didn’t,” the general said. “You need to care, and you have to ask the tough questions. You can tell when someone is not well, but you have to ask three times — not in a row — but ask and wait a while. On the third time, they will tell you what’s going on.”

The general said people should drop everything else and intervene to listen and get themselves help. “Create a culture where people feel like someone at work knows them and cares about them,” he said.

Before taking questions from the audience, General Nowland told everyone about the mission around the world and said it is an important mission. “We can’t do it without you,” he said. “You are valued and we need you.”