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AFGSC Commander reflects on nearly 40-year career

Gen Robin Rand

RandOct2013

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

As he looks toward retirement, Gen. Robin Rand, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, took some time recently to reflect on his time leading the command, and on a career that spans nearly 40 years. Rand will turn over command to Gen Timothy Ray in a Change of Command Ceremony at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Q: What were you main priorities as the commander of AFGSC?

A: My priorities have been consistent:

Mission – make sure we are focused on the mission – and that’s pretty straightforward – Deter, Assure, Strike.

Airmen – focus on the Airmen performing the mission.

Families – focus on the families supporting those Airmen.

We need to make sure we’re rooted and grounded in sound principles, our core values reinforced by our rich heritage.

What I’ve focused on that fits in with those priorities is the “fight tonight.” It’s easy to tell that on any given day we are engaged across the globe. From 24/7 nuclear alert with our ICBMs to Airmen deployed in large numbers to various Combatant Command locations. So the “fight tonight” is really important.

Tied with that, though, is the ability as a MAJCOM commander is to have enough vision to see how we are going to be postured to fight in the future - the fight in 2030 for example - and what we need to do in terms of modernization and recapitalization to make sure that we are also able to fight in the out years.

Those priorities keep your day pretty full. At it’s a team sport. It’s not just me, it’s everyone – the Headquarters, the Wings, the NAFs.

Q: What was your biggest challenge as the AFGSC commander?

A: I steal from Gen Goldfein when I say that in every challenge is an opportunity, and we’ve had a lot of opportunities. I don’t know that I could say any one thing is a challenge. Modernization and recapitalization was certainly an opportunity, and it’s been a growth industry for the command.

Improving our professional development has been another opportunity, and making sure we balance their workload. What I mean by that is not necessarily how many hours a day people work, but with the size of our force - in the insatiable appetite that combatant commanders have for the long range strategic deterrence and assurance - to make sure that we don’t bite off more than we can chew. I use the rubber band analogy. If you take one end and I take one end and we stretch it, and stretch it, and stretch it, and pull it, what’s will happen? It will snap. So, making sure we don’t stretch that rubber band between our commitments and obligations to support these combatant commanders has been a continual challenge/opportunity over the last three years. It’s the ultimate compliment. People want what we deliver, but we have to make sure that we don’t overextend ourselves.

Q: What was one of your proudest achievements as AFGSC commander and why?

A: That’s hard for me to answer because again, I go back to the fact that this is a team sport. There is nothing that I have done that I can say “boy, look at what I did,” so I haven’t given it that kind of thought. I am just really honored and proud to have served in this capacity. I’m really honored to have had the title of Air Force Global Strike Command - every day I come to work and I consider it a privilege.

My greatest feeling of accomplishment is serving with these Airmen - our wing commanders, and squadron commanders, and group commanders, and senior NCOs right on down to those young Airmen who do the work day in and day out – and seeing what they have accomplished over the last three years. I think we have a lot of positive momentum and we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s never complete. Gen Ray will have to keep swinging.

Q: What will you miss the most about your time in the Air Force?

A: What am I going to miss the most? It’s hard to ever come up with just one thing. Certainly this is intoxicating business. Our self-worth and value comes from knowing we are doing something that’s worthy, so I will certainly miss the opportunity to be in the scrum with the Airmen and Soldiers, Sailors and Marines we have. I’ll miss that, because I know we make a difference. I know what we collectively do is very important to our nation’s livelihood. What we do is important to our children and grandchildren, and that’s personal to me, so I’ll miss that part.

I certainly am going to miss the awesome people that I get to surround myself with every day. We’re surrounded by dedicated, disciplined, professional people, and we take that for granted. I don’t know what it’s like on the outside, because I haven’t worked on the outside in 44 years, but I can’t imagine that everywhere else you have the high quality of professionals that we have, and I know I’ll miss that.

Q: What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

A: I have certain areas of that I’m grateful for, but I realize that there are very, very few things that you do when you get to be my age that you really can take credit for.

Earlier on, there were some things. You know, to get my pilots wings, it didn’t matter how many people were helping and encouraging, or the instructors, at the end of the day, I had to perform or I wasn’t going to get the wings. It was the same when I went to the Weapons School – a lot of help, a lot of people getting you through the tough moments, but at the end of the day, the litmus test was me. So there is personal satisfaction in achieving those things, but when I look back at any achievements that I’ve had, the credit goes to the organizations, and the men and women who were in those organizations, because they did the work.

Becoming a general officer, I didn’t have a sense of personal satisfaction, I had a sense of humility, that I got promoted when there were many others as deserving, and I know that I got promoted because I had the good fortunate to work with phenomenal people.

Q: Is there anything you would go back do differently, that maybe you learned from, that you would want commanders to learn from?

A: With the benefit of hindsight, certainly there are things that I would do differently. It’s a long list, too long for this interview, but I have shared it. As recently as this week I went over to Hangar II and we met with about 50 Company Grade Officers, and the theme of my discussion was “If I could do it over, what would I change,” and I had a fairly extensive list.

However, I ended by saying, “If I could do it over again, I would, I would just do it better.”

Q: What are your post-retirement plans?

A: Kim and I are going to depart Barksdale after the change of command and we’ve already moved our household goods to a home we purchased in Eagle, Colorado. That will be our springboard. We have a couple of short trips planned, and plan to do a little contemplation and reflection, and of course the grandchildren will be a big part of the next few years. I don’t have any employment plans yet, but that will follow. We’ll figure it out. I’m not terribly concerned about that, I’m just going to finish strong here. The advice I’ve received is to just take some time, and I think I’ll follow that advice.

When you add it up, we’ve had about 25 moves. So now we’ve bought our forever home, and we don’t plan to do another move. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take employment elsewhere if the opportunity presented itself, but we’re going to keep that home in Eagle, and it will be what we’ll come back to when we really do hang up the spurs completely.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts or parting messages for the command?

A: I’m not big into long farewells. The strength and beauty of our Air Force is that commanders are caretakers. They have to drive, they set the pace, it’s like the wolf pack – the pace of the wolf pack is set by the lead wolf, but we’re so good that on Aug 21st, when the change of command is completed, Gen Ray will be the commander, and the command is going to keep running. That’s what’s great about us, because we have Airmen who are receptive and are disciplined and take instruction, and we do what we’re directed to do.

So my parting shot would be this: I’m going to be cheering for you, thank you for your service, and what you do is immensely important to our nation, more so than I can possibly explain. I firmly believe that the men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command provide this incredible umbrella of security that extends across our nation and across the globe. We are truly in the business of deterring bad people who have ill will against the United States, and assuring our partners and Allies that those bad people shouldn’t tangle with us. To be part of that has just been incredible.

I don’t see the importance of this command diminishing one iota. I think it will continue to be increasingly more important, and it’s just been a true honor to have the title of Air Force Global Strike Commander, and now for the rest of my life I get to be a former Air Force Global Strike Commander - that’s pretty humbling to be honest with you. It’s something that I’m very, very proud of.