JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Though some commanders would have lost a bit of optimism when faced with sequestration, civilian furloughs and a real-world active shooter incident that occurred on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston on the eighth day of his new assignment, Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, JBSA and 502nd Air Base Wing commander, is "completely honored and excited to have this opportunity to serve."
As a former 37th Mission Support Group commander at what was then Lackland Air Force Base (presently JBSA-Lackland), LaBrutta helped develop the "game plan" and was in the initial construct meetings for what would be JBSA, the largest joint base in the Department of Defense.
"I knew this job was going to be big and complex because I was part of the team that formulated how JBSA would work," LaBrutta said. "However, I didn't know the magnitude and scope of responsibility that I'd really have until I got here and sat in the seat."
As the JBSA and 502nd ABW commander, LaBrutta is responsible for supporting all missions within JBSA, which encompasses four primary locations, more than 200 mission partners and 80,000 employees.
Despite fiscal constraints, LaBrutta said he looks forward to working with the outstanding professionals who are making the mission happen throughout JBSA.
The best perspective comes from having "boots on the ground," LaBrutta said.
"I need to make sure I get to each of the JBSA locations and understand the work forces' perspective so that I can provide them with the tools, equipment and resources they need to be successful," he said.
LaBrutta said he believes that JBSA can be "the lead" for all joint bases.
"I am aware there are skeptics regarding joint basing," he said. "My job is to find the problems and disconnects that are occurring, then figure out solutions that will make joint basing as effective at delivering installation support to our mission partners as possible. I firmly believe that if we can propel the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio into being more successful, then the other 11 joint bases will learn from our efforts and improve as well."
Along with streamlining processes and providing installation support, LaBrutta is dedicated to making sure all 502nd ABW and JBSA members are prepared for every situation.
Referring to the real-world active shooter incident June 10 at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, LaBrutta said, "It was a real eye opener."
"However, our intense Exercise and Training programs prepare us to respond," he said. "This is the lifeblood of what we do in the military. We exercise and train so that we are ready to fight."
Even though LaBrutta had taken command for only a few days before the shooting, he said that he had total trust in the team who, together with their San Antonio Police Department partners, made great calls and appropriate response decisions that led to the quick apprehension of the suspect and proactive medical treatment for the victim.
"In my other wing and group command jobs, I had never dealt with a real-world active shooter, and it was certainly a different experience," he said. "Now that we have this incident under our belts, we hope that it doesn't ever happen again, but it's actually reassuring to know that we are prepared if it does."
LaBrutta, while recognizing there will likely be a few bumps in the road, says he feels ready for this assignment.
"I am very fortunate, lucky, privileged and honored to be able to command again," he said.
"I know the challenges are significant, so we're just going to have to do things differently than we have in the past," LaBrutta said. "Because of the fiscal constraints, we'll have to be more creative, find alternative approaches to getting the job done and focus our limited resources on our highest priorities. The bottom line is that although we may have to do less, we are not going to execute our mission less well."
LaBrutta, who is an outspoken advocate of the Air Force core values, says all uniformed and civilian members, regardless of service, should know they are leaders and should never lose the sense of pride they felt when they first raised their hand and swore to serve and support their nation.
"My definition of a leader is not rank," LaBrutta, a prior-enlisted Airman, said. "I believe a leader is a person who regardless of pay grade or position is someone I want to follow willingly because they are passionate about their mission and people, and because they understand how critically important the mission is for our nation. Whatever level you're at in an organization, you're a leader and you can make a powerful, positive difference."
Determined to never stray from his definition of a leader, LaBrutta says he will always treat everyone with dignity and respect.
"I'm not the type to say 'I will give 110 percent,' because all I have is 100," he said, "but I can guarantee that I'm going to give every bit of that 100 percent every single day. I love what I do and I feel grateful to be serving in this capacity. I hope to bring a positive impact from a leadership perspective - encouraging and inspiring others to join me in executing this great installation support mission we have."