RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
The commander of Air Education and Training Command, Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, will retire in the grade of general effective Jan. 1, 2011, Air Force officials announced today, culminating more than 37 years of commissioned service. His retirement ceremony is Nov. 17.
Among his many accomplishments as AETC commander, General Lorenz oversaw development of an innovative Remotely Piloted Aircraft pilot and sensor operator training courses as well as the creation of cyberspace courses at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In addition, he improved the Battlefield Airmen training program and stood up the Air Force's Joint Expeditionary Tasking combat skills training program, enabling the Air Force to meet combatant commander requirements.
Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, said that, as AETC commander, General Lorenz, has "exemplified the same great leadership qualities that he has modeled for others throughout his remarkable career."
"Under his leadership," General Schwartz said, "AETC has helped Airmen around the world earn their bachelor's degrees through Air University's Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative Program. His leadership of the Air Force task force incorporating lessons learned from the tragic events at Fort Hood was typical of his exceptional work on behalf of all Airmen and their families."
A third generation Air Force officer, General Lorenz followed a family tradition of service soon after his first career goal was accomplished -- graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1973.
"I was 9 years old when my dad was a captain in 1960 and we drove down to see the U.S. Air Force Academy," General Lorenz said. "At the time, it was under construction, the chapel wasn't built, the walls of the Academy were up, some dorms were built and I said, 'Hey, this is the place I want to go to school.'"
Over the course of the next nine years, while attending eight elementary schools and four high schools, he was driven to become a cadet at the academy, he said.
While the general built a hugely successful career over four decades, he admits the early stages were not easy.
"The beginning of the hard part was June 23, 1969, when I entered the academy," he said. "The harder part was making it academically. I liked aeronautical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science so much I took them all twice and was on the dean's 'other' list six of eight semesters."
General Lorenz discovered he had to work hard to earn his Air Force commission and he soon developed a sense that education is the "great leveler" in America.
"It doesn't matter where you're from or what background you have," he said. "If you're willing to work hard, never give up and show perseverance and tenacity, it's amazing what you can accomplish. Education is a lifelong experience."
The general's Air Force family ties run deep. His enlisted grandfather served in World War I, became an aviation cadet and pilot, and then dropped bombs on the captured German battleship, Ostfriesland, in 1921 with Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell to illustrate the might of airpower. The general's father, a graduate of St. Louis University, enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II, was commissioned in 1950 and flew in combat during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
"With an airpower pedigree running back to his grandfather's participation in Billy Mitchell's bombing of the Ostfriesland, General Steve Lorenz has upheld the strongest traditions of our Air Force and our Nation," said General Howie Chandler, the Air Force vice chief of staff.
General Lorenz points out that his middle name is Randolph, honoring the base where his father was stationed in 1950 during pilot training. Similarly, the general's brother, who retired as an Air Force lieutenant colonel, carries the middle name "Scott" after the base near their hometown of Belleville, Illinois.
Soon after his career began, General Lorenz married his wife, Leslie, whom he calls "the love of my life." Together they had three children.
"Personally, I am most proud of my children, my sons-in-law and my grandchildren," the general said. "Professionally, I am most proud of the opportunity to serve our nation with so many great Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during the last 37 years as a commissioned officer."
When discussing her priorities, Leslie Lorenz, the general's wife, said, "I've tried to make sure new people in our units were welcomed and made to feel a part of the Air Force family. Steve's priority was a consistent effort to improve things wherever we were."
General Lorenz believes that improvement often comes from adversity, something each of us experience.
"We can study and grow by learning from others who have come before us and learn from the challenges they faced through adversity," he said. "We live in the land of opportunity. If we stop reaching and improving, we'll stop achieving the goals we believe in."
The general credits the Air Force for the opportunities it continues to offer Airmen, he said.
"There is no one moment. Rather there is always a series of moments when an opportunity is dropped in your lap and you don't even know it's an opportunity and, occasionally, you don't even want to take it, but you do it anyway," the general said. "There's an old saying, 'When one door closes, another one opens.'"
Where there is opportunity, there is leadership, he said, "and we must all help each other develop and expand our leadership abilities."
General Lorenz believes strongly in sharing lessons learned, evidenced by his creation of "Lorenz on Leadership," a series of articles used within AETC print and online media, as well as national publications.
General Chandler said the "Lorenz on Leadership" articles would be part of the general's long-term contribution to the Air Force.
"Over his tenure as the AETC commander, he has not only provided the Air Force with outstanding training and education initiatives, he has also served as a beacon for leadership development through his 'Lorenz on Leadership' series," General Chandler said. "His charisma, character, and endless zeal for serving our Air Force and educating our Airmen will be what I will always remember him for."
General Lorenz demonstrated that "endless zeal" for education in his roadmap for future Air Force leaders. "We need to encourage our young Airmen who are making history to sit and write down their thoughts, and to become strategists, thinkers and leaders in this arena," General Lorenz said. "Air Force people are just as smart as any other group of people and all they have to do is articulate their ideas and they can affect the outcome of the future of warfare and the future of our nation."
General Lorenz speaks proudly when talking about the ability of everyone in the Air Force to change people's lives for the better.
"As the First Command, it is AETC's mission to touch every Airman, the total force -- Guard, Reserve, active duty and civilian -- as they receive training and education," he said.
"I ask everyone to be the best you can be by living the Air Force's core values and serving others," the general said. "As I tell all my commanders, and this goes to the youngest Airman, 'Always leave the campground better than you found it and make a difference in people's lives.' If you do that, the rest will take care of itself."