EDITORS NOTE: Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, AFSC commander, relinquished command to Lt. Gen. Lee Levy II on June 5 during a change of command ceremony.
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — “How do you know you’ve had a good day?”
At some point, when working for Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, the commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, everyone is asked that exact question.
He would pose this question and expect nothing but honesty. He didn’t want to hear what you “thought he wanted to hear.” He wanted to know if you had the resources to do your job, if you’d had a successful day at work, how you measured that success and how you planned to make tomorrow better.
Litchfield kept his pulse on the organization, and he did it by holding his workforce and himself accountable. His “have you had a good day” question was one of the ways he kept that pulse. Accountability is everything; it was “our” job to support the warfighter, and it’s “our” job to keep our nation safe for our sons and daughters.
This was a mission he didn’t take lightly. He has always said, when you come to work, you have to accomplish two things: execute the mission and take care of the people.
In an environment of increasing requirements, decreasing budgets and increasingly aging aircraft, this leader didn’t come to “survive,” he came to thrive.
Three years ago, Air Force Materiel Command stood up the AFSC with the mission to deliver performance levels never before obtained at high levels of efficiency, and strive to become the most effective, efficient and innovative sustainer of air power in the world.
But what the Air Force didn’t know is that by placing the right leader at the helm, that AFSC would not only meet expectations, but exceed them. Aircraft production increased every year providing more capability to the warfighter. Aircraft parts delivery increased, sustainment costs decreased, and AFSC increased our nation’s ability to defend itself. General Litchfield established himself as the Air Force’s supporting commander for readiness.
Litchfield saw this changing environment as an opportunity to improve and reach for results that were once thought unreachable. He hammered out his AFSC Leadership Model, making a path for the “AFSC Way” and our “Road to a Billion” initiatives. He looked to everyone to be accountable for how they contribute to our mission to support the warfighter. During the drastic time of sequestration, he emphasized being cost effective, not just effective and giving the Air Force more buying power.
He established a new culture. He was able to take three distinct cultures across three air logistics centers, and merge them into one.
How did he do it?
Litchfield was able to shape and guide a 35,000-person organization by giving people a standard method in which to operate and provide common goals to drive the organization to success.
He was able to see the “big picture” and translate so that everyone from the “chief’s door to the shop floor” understood where they fit in. He pushed that getting the right results the right way, was better than “right now” fixes to problems that would lead to long-term issues.
The general got back to straightforward business practices, and by doing that he was able to lead a vital part of our nation’s defense, to become better at what we do.
He’ll be remembered for his rallying cry for “Art of the Possible” results, and getting the “right results, the right way.” But, his legacy will be the organization’s ability to improve, strive for the monumental results and increase our ability to always “keep ’em flying … it’s what we do.”