86th AW commander reflects on first 100 days

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert L. McIlrath
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The 86th Airlift Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Otis C. Jones, recently sat down to reflect on his first 100 days as commander and shared his vision for the future for Ramstein AB as the global gateway.

Q: What would you like the members of Team Ramstein to know about you and your overall vision as the recently appointed commander of the 86th Airlift Wing?

A: First and foremost, I want my teammates here to understand that I fully appreciate everything they do. Our uniform wearers raised their right hand and took a solemn oath to serve our great nation, and I thank them for not only taking that oath, but for what they do for our country and what they do for Team Ramstein and the 86th Airlift Wing.

I want to thank our family members as well for the sacrifices they are making. Our family members did not raise their right hand to serve, but I believe they are serving simply because they chose to love an Airman. It’s not easy to move to Europe and be so far away from family and worry about jobs, housing, school, and community.

The mission here is no-fail and family members support their servicemembers during a consistently high ops tempo. But there is one reason we were sent here, and that’s to execute a mission. Together, we are going to concentrate on executing our mission today and preparing for future operations, while continuing to take care of our Airmen and their families.

Strong relationships with our host nation partners are also essential to our mission. I plan to improve on our already fantastic relationships with our allies and partners to ensure we are good partners and will continue to strengthen those relationships.

I also want to strengthen our internal culture. My vision is that each of us is a human being that deserves to be treated with dignity and respect – that is the foundation of the culture I want to ensure.  That doesn’t mean we will always get along and agree about everything, but whatever we go through, we are going to treat each other with dignity and respect.

Finally, I believe we should always strive to leave a place, job, or base better than when we arrived – and I know together we will achieve that challenging goal during our time here.

Q: What are your goals as the 86th AW commander?

A: We have an absolutely no- fail mission at this base.  My goal is to continue to execute what we are tasked with doing today and ensure our country has every confidence we will get it done.

Part of that is to ensure we are prepared for any future fight.  I’m not talking five to 10 years from now, but potentially 20 years down the road. I think the atmosphere will be complex and dynamic, and we have to maintain our readiness to ensure we have the resources and a strategic mindset moving forward.

The world has changed, and we must concentrate on the things we will need to do with our allies and partners in the future. It’s all about the readiness of our Airmen, Guardians, civilians, and families. My goal is to ensure we are prepared – and I have no doubt in the abilities of our Airmen and Guardians to execute the mission.

Q: With that in mind, what are your expectations for members of Team Ramstein? (military members, civilians, family members)

A: I expect us all to uphold our core values of integrity, excellence, and selfless service – that’s what we’re all about. We have the most talented force in the history of our nation, and I trust them. I’m going to ask them to step out and take risks. We might make mistakes, and mistakes are ok, but as long as we have a positive attitude, pride, and passion about what we are doing, I think we’ll be fine. We won’t live by any mistake. We’ll get up together, dust ourselves off and move forward.

I also expect to have critical thinkers. No longer can we afford to have people who just take orders and execute. We have to be able to assess a scenario and understand complex and diverse solutions and be able to apply these. We talk in terms of multi-capable Airmen and different things, but we really need people to have confidence in their abilities and execute.

Q: When you first assumed command, you called for continued building of adaptive Airmen and Guardians. Why is that so important?

A: The future is uncertain. Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, gave us a mandate that said, ‘accelerate change or lose.’ One thing we do not do is lose. That’s not acceptable.

I think we need to be prepared, and that means being adaptive. You’ve heard of agile combat employment, and you’ve heard of multi-capable Airmen – these mean we need to be adaptable to any given scenario and prepared to both defend the base and project combat power across the globe.

I believe we have the most professional enlisted force the world has ever seen, and we have a top-notch officer corps. Together, we have innovative and creative units who execute the mission with excellence, whether it’s in this theater of operations or across the globe.

Q: After your immersion with members and mission partners of the 86th AW, what stood out?

A: That’s easy. They were very proud of what they did in Operation Allies Refuge, and they should be. I could see the pride and passion of each member for what they put forward. They can also see the impact they had in operations across the theater, whether it was in Afghanistan or supporting our allies and partners in this region right now. They really understand the value they add with their inputs. I want to continue that.

From the smallest task to the largest task, up to actually flying the operational mission or deploying on a front line somewhere, everyone needs to understand their importance to the fight. That pride in what they do is there, I want them to continue to understand how valuable they are to this installation.

Q: In your first 100 days, what have you seen that has worked and what do you see that needs improvement?

A: I have seen an amazing team that works, and I trust in our Airmen and have every confidence that they are executing the mission and getting it done well.

I also think we can always work on things and get better. One of the things we can work on is communication across our units, communication from our senior leaders down to our youngest Airmen and communication from our wing to the numbered Air Force to the major command. Communication can always be better. I think as communication gets better; we reduce the risk of not being able to complete our mission across the theater.

I want my team to know that nothing is more important than their safety to me.  I don’t want to see DUIs. I’ve seen those numbers go up and I am disappointed. To me, one is too many. We need to uphold standards and discipline. We also need to be aware of things when we go out and have a plan, or if the plan changes, we have a good backup plan. We need to be good wingmen and trust our brothers and sisters enough to make a call to say, ‘hey my plans fell through, help me out.’  This is something we are focusing on to find solutions. We are going to combat that together.

Additionally, I want to focus on resiliency. We are entering the winter months, a time where we get together to celebrate different holidays, but we’re also a long way from home. We have an operations tempo that is higher than many other places. We are asking our teammates to do a lot, and that means there is a lot of stress. I want us to connect with each other as teammates, brothers, sisters, and wingmen. I don’t want to lose anyone to suicide. When I hear about suicides, I always wonder what more could have been done. I won’t accept the fact that we’ve done all we can. We’re going to continue to look for ways to reach people and bring them in or meet them where they are.

Q: Ramstein Airmen consistently maintain some of the highest operations tempo across the Department of Defense, especially in the last several years. What can we do moving forward to prioritize and take care of the mental health of our subordinates, peers and ourselves?

A: We have programs like Life Talk, where we don’t wear the rank. It's closed-door and what goes on will stay in there and you can just talk. There are people who want to utilize the chaplain, and there are people who don’t want to utilize the chaplain and the same with mental health. We are charged with taking care of our wingmen, and we have first sergeants and supervisors to help, but the best resources are those around you. There are a plethora of options available, and hopefully our Airmen feel comfortable talking when times are tough. We are here to support you.

  • Life Talk occurs the 1st and 3rd Monday at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Military and Family Readiness Center on Ramstein Air Base.  All ranks are welcome, and no uniforms are required. To get more information on the program call DSN 480-5100.