JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
As Maj. Gen. John P. Horner looks back on his nearly two years as commander of Air Force Recruiting Service, his admiration for the people who make things happen is evident.
"I have a profound respect for the folks in this command, in particular our NCOs who are the subject matter experts on all things recruiting," he said. "The Air Force is in good shape. It starts with recruiting the best and then retaining them and I think Recruiting Service continues to do a wonderful job of inspiring, attracting and accessing Airmen for the world's greatest Air Force."
Horner, who received his second star in a frocking ceremony July 25, left AFRS to become the deputy director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. He'll be the senior military officer at the agency that's charged with reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
While he's excited about the new mission and returning to Washington, D.C., with his wife, Heather, the general said he will miss recruiting command activities.
"My favorite part of the job was seeing the interactions of the line recruiter with young applicants," he said. "The most inspiring was to see those applicants, either when they took the oath in front of their parents or when they graduated from BMT, and to see that transformation take place, and see what the future of our Air Force looks like at a very early stage.
"That was the most gratifying part of my job - to see our young applicants and know that our recruiters are doing everything possible to set them up for success," he added.
Even though he admits the assignment wasn't anything like he expected it to be, he's pleased with what he was able to accomplish during his time as commander.
"The focus on the mission, balanced with our Airmen and their families, plus some great advice from my staff, command chief and others, allowed me to survive, and on some days, even succeed," he said with a chuckle.
"What I found interesting was the degree of autonomy and responsibility we give NCOs and even senior airmen in their first year of their time on the bag. They're often expected to achieve very difficult goals with minimal supervision due to the geographically dispersed nature of the command," Horner said. "This also allows them to mature and demonstrate their ability to succeed in a stressful situation, and I think that sets them up for future leadership opportunities in our Air Force."
His tenure was not without its challenges, however.
"Getting through the dual hurdles of sequestration and the force shaping and management issues that we've endured was rough," he said.
"Sequestration obviously put tremendous pressure on our ability to do our command and control, supervision, and mentoring, due to travel restrictions and lack of opportunity to get together," Horner said.
He added that force shaping was a much more personal issue for Airmen, and it affected more than just shortened careers in the Air Force.
"The opportunity to make that next stripe or rank is also a real challenge in our current environment," he said. "Frankly, promotion rates to the next grade are as big a hurdle as I can recall in my 28-plus years."
Horner feels the command is in good shape for his successor, Brig. Gen. James C. Johnson.
"As I reflect back on my time in recruiting, I'm pleased with where we're at," Horner said. "There's an old adage: 'You don't need to tell people how to do things. Tell them what needs to get done and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.' I'm very confident the people of AFRS will continue to do just that."