Even before he was assigned to command the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was impressed with the aircraft maintenance performed here.
As director of Logistics for Headquarters Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Buhler saw maintainers installing F-16 wings that had been repaired at the Ogden ALC.
“I can tell you without question we couldn’t survive in PACAF without the Ogden Air Logistics Complex. We had about 20 percent of our F-16 wings that needed to be changed while I was there, and Ogden cranked out wings. It is virtually one of the best cradle-to-grave operations I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“We relied on Ogden a lot. From a warfighter’s perspective, the Ogden ALC is essential. Without the ALC, our nation couldn’t do its business.”
Buhler assumed command here in early September, his 16th assignment since receiving his Air Force commission in 1989 through the ROTC program at Valdosta State College, Valdosta, Ga. His father, Dusty Buhler, served in the Air Force for 20 years, and he also has a brother and brother-in-law that served.
“I can tell you, I never considered that I wouldn’t join the Air Force. It was kind of an assumption in my mind,” he said. “My dad didn’t push me toward the Air Force. I just knew I wanted to be an Air Force officer. When I was younger I set my goals on applying for an ROTC slot. I was very, very blessed to have an ROTC scholarship and get my commission.”
He started out in the 354th Component Repair Squadron Avionics Branch at Myrtle Beach AFB, S.C., and his varied career has since included aircraft maintenance, logistics, business development, resource integration and munitions. Buhler has directed a command post, served as a legislative liaison and overseen precision maintenance on the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” aircraft. He’s also commanded at the wing, expeditionary group, and squadron levels.
The lessons he’s learned in his many assignments have helped Buhler deal with the different personalities he’s met worldwide.
“One thing that I tell folks is the best leaders change their leadership approach, based on who they’re dealing with. Some leaders can come in and have a one-size-fits-all approach. They don’t change, regardless of who they’re dealing with,” he said. “I equate it to an NFL coach who learns the talents of the individuals on the team, then builds the offensive and defensive schemes around those talents. That’s how I like to lead — evaluate who I get to work with.”
“Everybody has pros, everybody has cons, including myself, and so it’s good to build a team going forward that way. Some people you can say ‘I’m disappointed in you’ and that will be the worst thing they’ve ever heard. With other people you have to be a little sterner. And some people you have to just shrug your shoulders. Everybody responds differently.”
Shortly after 2nd Lt. Carl Buhler entered the Air Force, the Berlin Wall was torn down and Operation Desert Shield began after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. George Bush was president, and the Air Force had 535,233 active-duty Airmen.
“When I first came in, I had parts on hand, I had 300-plus maintainers,” the general recalled, “where now, you probably have around 200 in an A-10 flightline unit. We had officers’ one- or two-deep in every organization.
“Plus, and this is a key, we didn’t deploy that often. In fact, we had three squadrons on base and we were lucky, each of us, to get one TDY deployment a year — usually two weeks to Red Flag, two weeks to Air Warrior. Now, with real-world deployments, people are gone four-to-six months to a year and the size of our Air Force is almost 50 percent less compared to when I joined.”
Yet, Buhler sees the current fiscally constrained environment as an opportunity to make operations more efficient.
“Losing resources is not always a bad thing because it leads to folks finding ways to be efficient,” he said. “My outlook on the Ogden ALC going forward is cost-effective readiness. As our commander, General Litchfield says — and I agree with him 100 percent — cost-effective readiness leads to the size of our Air Force that will fight our nation’s wars in the future. We can do a lot of great things, right now, today, that will impact our Air Force for years and years to come.”
The general said he will focus on providing tools, training and equipment for ALC employees.
“I think that the opportunity for growth right now is to get very efficient in what we are doing. People know how to be efficient — the key for leadership is to give people the opportunity and hold them accountable. Accountability goes both ways, and we rely on that to maximize the efficiency. Any organization, by definition, has inefficiencies in it — so it’s our job to help find out what those inefficiencies are.”
Buhler describes himself as a proactive, visible, “out-and-about kind of leader” who strives to plan ahead.
“I’m a process guy. The folks that know me — and I tell my staff — I’m a planner’s planner. I like to plan and then have plans on top of that. I’m a firm believer that if you plan to prevent something bad, the bad part usually doesn’t happen.”
And plan he has. As a means of helping the ALC groups stay up-to-date with each other, Buhler will hold many of the weekly meetings in locations other than the usual Bldg. 849 conference room.
“I don’t see why everyone has to leave their place of work and come up to see us,” he said. “If you look at it from a planning perspective, it takes someone who works in the F-22 area 12 minutes to get here and 12 minutes to get back, and by the time they park and get inside, that’s 30 minutes out of their day. And if they have two meetings in a day, that’s an hour they’re not on the floor working with employees.”
“Our squadron leaders and group leaders that attend can go into the Commodities Group, for example, and see real-time how the landing gear process operates. This gives me and my other leadership teammates the opportunity to get out and see what’s happening, production-wise.”
Again stressing efficiency and teamwork, Buhler wants the ALC employees and leadership to know that “we matter” — The Ogden ALC is important to keeping the Air Force operating.
“I truly believe that any leader, including myself, works for the folks getting the job done. I truly believe that,” he said. “It’s a strategic imperative for us to be more efficient. I think everybody — from the technicians on the floor to all of our commanders and our civilian leaders — needs to be more demanding of each other in terms of knowing what’s going on and helping to knock down constraints.”
“I’ve been very, very impressed with the scope of the ALC. I honestly wasn’t aware of how large the ALC was in terms of the things we touch. I’ve enjoyed meeting our union reps and having relationships with the union. And I’m very, very impressed with the work ethic of the workforce here.” “Additionally, I’ve been very impressed with my Team Hill teammates, as well as the community leaders that support the base and our workforce.”