Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
With half a nation between him and his previous assignment, the new vice commander of the 37th Training Wing assumed his new responsibilities July 5.
Col. Eric Wilbur, fresh from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., where he commanded the 43rd Mission Support Group, said he's looking forward to his new role as vice commander.
"As we perform the mission here, we are impacting the future of the Air Force. From (basic military training) to technical schools to daily base operations, we are helping prepare great young Americans to serve this nation."
The career civil engineer said he plans on approaching his duties from a facilitator's perspective more than a manager's. This philosophy is constructed from his past assignments, ranging from a readiness and logistics officer to a group commander.
"It's those Airmen out there, in the field, executing the Air Force's mission, that know how to perform the mission and what they need to get the mission accomplished. The best I can hope to do is facilitate what they do," the colonel said. "Plus we have so many great people on this installation performing critical missions for our Air Force, so I am here to help them when they need me."
Now on his 13th assignment in 23 years, to include being a squadron commander at a deployed location, the West Union, Iowa, native said all his previous assignments have given him special insight to what type of Airmen Lackland must produce.
"Especially in my command positions, I was very interested in the newest Airmen that showed up at my unit and how prepared they were for the mission. So I'm bringing the perspective of a long-time customer of the 37th Training Wing into my job. I have a sense for what the Air Force needs of its Airmen and what role the Lackland team plays in meeting those needs."
To that end, Colonel Wilbur said he feels it's his responsibility to exhibit and mentor Airmen on the core values because without strong adherence to those three principles - integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do - the overall mission will suffer.
And with all the unrest in today's world, failure is not an option, admits the colonel. It's not the same Air Force of previous decades when most Airmen stayed in safe locations behind enemy lines.
"We are moving the entire Air Force toward a more combat-focused force. Each Airman must be prepared to perform the mission under arduous and sometimes hostile conditions. To meet those requirements we must make each Airman combat ready, starting with basic military training and continuing throughout the Airman's career."
But that's not the only change the colonel sees for the Air Force. He sees a more powerful, streamlined corps achieved through continuous process improvement.
"As an Air Force, we are comfortable with change. We need to take advantage of that to become more effective and efficient. To do that we must empower the people performing the mission to make the changes that brings improvements. We can do this by providing them with the opportunities and resources to improve the day-to-day processes that make the Air Force the world's greatest Air and Space power."
Now settling into his job, Colonel Wilbur said he's excited to continue and expand upon the infrastructure improvements already started by his predecessors.
The colonel said we must continue to improve the working and living conditions for Team Lackland and our families which will ultimately increase mission effectiveness.
In a final comment, Colonel Wilbur said one of the most important things his predecessor, Col. Stan Chase, challenged him to do was to always look at the installation as a team.
"He told me to work together as a team because all of the mission partners - Wilford Hall, AIA, Guard and Reserve units, and others - are vital to our national security interests. Although much of the 37th TRW is focused on training, Lackland AFB is more than a training base and the support we provide to our mission partners is critical to their success."