97 AMW Hosts AETC Deputy Commander

  • Published
  • By Kenny Scarle
  • 97 AMW PA

The deputy commander of Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Maj. Gen. Mark Weatherington, visited various squadrons and organizations at Altus AFB, Nov. 8, 2018 for the first time. Weatherington toured the installation to witness the innovation, capabilities and challenges of the Mighty 97th firsthand.

AETC is responsible for the recruiting, training and education of Air Force personnel and includes the Air Force Recruiting Service, two numbered air forces and Air University. AETC operates more than 1,400 trainer, fighter and mobility aircraft, 23 wings, 10 bases and five geographically separated groups. It is made up of approximately 60,000 active-duty, Reserve, Guard, civilian and contractor personnel who train more than 293,000 students per year. During Weatherington’s visit to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, he learned that more than 2,000 of them are from Altus AFB and are at the forefront of the modernization of the force.

“The best part is getting out and seeing Airmen actually doing their mission and being excited about our Air Force,” said Weatherington. “It’s great seeing them excited about making a difference and doing some innovative things to do the job better.”

Weatherington began his tour of the 97 AMW onboard a KC-135 Stratotanker to observe the air refueling mission at Altus AFB firsthand. The Mighty 97th trains all KC-135, C-17 Globemaster III and KC-46A Pegasus crewmembers from around the world. While some of these jets are more than 60 years old, Altus continues to focus on innovation in training. Weatherington stressed the importance of Airmen bringing new ideas and different methods to doing the job, using student-centered approaches to learning to help improve the mission, which is at the core of the Continuum of Learning concept.

“How do we let them bring those things into our Air Force and change the way we’ve done business for a lot of years and the way that we train or the way that we execute our mission?” asked Weatherington. “If you think of the Continuum of Learning as providing Airmen opportunities to learn and grow and enrich their understanding of their mission and what they can do, there’s a lot of things going on here at Altus that can support that.”

Following the KC-135 refueling mission, Weatherington toured various flying squadrons on the installation to learn more about the different flying and training missions at the wing.

“The Air Force we serve does some incredible things around the globe and that mission,” said Weatherington. “Whether its tankers providing air refueling and extending the range and reach of any number of our weapons systems or C-17s delivering the cargo, the people and the material to do things around the globe on a moment’s notice providing humanitarian support – all that starts here with training capable Airmen at Altus Air Force Base.”

The next morning, Weatherington addressed senior enlisted leaders during a breakfast where he discussed the Continuum of Learning. He emphasized how vital it is in keeping our Airmen prepared to overcome future challenges while continuing to appreciate the innovation they bring to the future of training.

“I think of the Continuum of Learning as breaking out of that paradigm that, if the Air Force wants you to know and understand something and do a job, it’s going to send you to go get that training and accomplish it,” said Weatherington. “Now we are talking about Airmen bringing their own capabilities and experiences to the fight and going out and building new strengths and new capabilities along the way.”

After breakfast, Weatherington visited other parts of the installation. The tour consisted of locations highlighting the various aspects of the mission, including maintenance Hangar 285, the flightline for a C-17 cargo-loading demonstration and a tour of the new 97th Security Forces Warrior Training Center. These all helped Weatherington understand the overall force development at Altus AFB.

“It was an incredible visit. I just saw some of the interesting things that the Security Forces Squadron is doing in terms of establishing some capabilities – an emergency services team,” said Weatherington. “The way they are going to conduct some of their training and prepare Airmen better might complement some of the things going on in the community.”

At the end of the visit, Weatherington issued a call to action for new Airmen just starting their careers in the Air Force.

“Be demanding,” said Weatherington. “Demand that your Air Force evolves and changes and goes after some of these things, these new ways of doing business. Don’t just accept the fact that ‘Hey this is the way it is and it’s not going to change.’ We want your ideas; we want to know what’s on your mind; we want to know how you’ve seen things done somewhere else or some interesting ideas you have to make the Air Force better.”