JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Alan Becker is an unassuming man. If you worked down the hall from him, you might see him as a kind, hardworking man but not much more. He has a friendly voice that matches the half-smile that’s always on his face.
When he speaks, he uses everyday language even though he is highly intelligent. Talking to him, he might tell you about gardening with his wife, all about his three grandchildren, or about his church’s “Inquiry Class” he has taught for the past 10 years.
After getting to know him, though, you would see there is a lot more to Becker than his approachable demeanor and his polo-and-slacks attire imply. Becker is Air Education and Training Command’s winner of the 2019 Air Force Association Outstanding Civilian Program Manager of the Year award.
He probably wouldn’t bring that up in conversation, though. He also probably wouldn’t mention his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics or his master’s degree in computer science. Or that he is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who served on active duty for 26 years and has served more than 14 years as an Air Force civilian since his first “retirement.”
Becker was nominated for the AFA award thanks to his work as the program manager who transferred Holloman Air Force Base from Air Combat Command to AETC and moved two F-16 fighter squadrons from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Describing his job as program manager, Becker said he was “the center of the wheel for manpower, logistics, operations, training, et cetera,” acting as a liaison to connect all the different spokes in the wheel.
Even though the Holloman move was award-winning work, Becker down-played his role in the process.
“It was like moving a mountain; you can only move it one rock at a time. I helped others identify the big rocks they needed to move, but I just moved my little pebble out of the way so others could move their big rocks,” Becker said.
Becker was more interested in talking about the strengths of others than his own. Talking about the Holloman move, Becker said his biggest supporters were the individual team leads and co-workers from his own office.
“Team leads were the ones who knew everything in their area of expertise and got things done,” Becker said, “I have also made some very dear friends here at AETC that I can sit down with and share mission-related items or just personal things.”
Outside of the office, Becker has a lot of support from his family. Becker could talk at length about his grandkids, his wife and his children. Becker also said the number one thing that makes him successful is prayer.
“With all the crazy things that are always going on, I can’t keep things straight if I don’t take some time each day to go clear my head and pray,” Becker said. “The physical part of talking and getting things done has to be infused with the spiritual.”
Becker doesn’t just rely on the support of others, he has also worked hard to be a supportive mentor for those around him. Some of his mentees have recognized him when he least expects it.
Once, Becker was sitting in the main auditorium on Randolph AFB while former AETC commander, Gen. Robin Rand, was giving a speech. Rand was walking up the aisle when, right in the middle of a slide, he stopped, looked at Becker and said, “Hello, Al Becker! Remember that time we almost ran out of gas over Crater Lake?” And the entire auditorium burst into laughter.
“When you have a relationship early on, and you see these outstanding leaders grow and progress in their careers, they’ll remember you. It’s an honor to be remembered,” Becker said.
A lot of Becker’s humility, mentorship and strong work-ethic probably comes from his rural upbringing. Becker was raised on his family’s dairy farm in Colby, Wisconsin. He grew up as the sixth child out of eight. To support the family farm, it was important for Becker and his siblings to work hard, build trust and mentor each other.
Becker said that going to the Air Force Academy after life on the farm was a bit of a shock.
“When I went to the academy, I was overblown with the smart people who were there, but I worked harder to keep up and that hard work paid off. And that is one thing my wife of 41 years and I have really instilled in our kids: a good work ethic,” Becker said.
While Becker doesn’t directly use his math or computer science degrees as a program manager, he said they were still essential things for him to study.
“It’s the thought-process, the problem-solving techniques that I’ve learned that are important,” Becker said, “If someone says they don’t like math, I tell them you have to learn it anyway, because that’s where you learn your problem-solving skills. I tell that to my kids, grandkids, and anyone else’s grandkids.”
After more than 40 years with the Air Force, Becker is looking forward to retiring for good and spending more time with his grandkids.
“I dream of taking care of my grandkids. My kids have paddled their own canoes and they have each done very well. I help them when I can, but now there’s a lot of potential with my three grandkids.”
Becker is still in the running for the Air Force-wide AFA Outstanding Civilian Program Manager of the Year award. That award will be presented to the winner at AFA’s Air, Space and Cyber conference in September 2019.