By 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
(Editor’s note: 19th Airlift Wing and installation commander Col. Charles Brown Jr. talked about his vision, goals and plans for the wing in an interview July 15 with Senior Airman Scott Poe and Tech. Sgt. Jason Armstrong, 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs. An edited transcript follows.)
Q. How did it feel to be selected to come back to Little Rock AFB as the installation commander?
A. It was definitely humbling. The thing that I probably thought about the most in the lead up to taking command is ‘what is the best way I can take care of that wing and the installation and really share what the base has to offer to the community and what the community has to offer to the base?’
[I didn’t have] a lot of sleepless nights, but I definitely had a lot on my mind as to not wanting to fail. [I have] so much passion and love for the mission and the Airmen here that it’s a lot of weight to put on one person’s shoulders. I’m the commander by position, and that comes with its own scope of authorities and responsibilities, but it’s actually a team. That was the part that really was the ‘warm blanket’ that brought me in and took some of that pressure off of me. You would think the pressure got greater when I took command, but it actually was lessened when I saw the quality of our Airmen and the quality of the mission—the genuine trust I could have in the Airmen to do their jobs day-to-day and see them well-balanced and fit. I saw families out doing things together and saw the community rallying around them.
It’s really hard to describe what it feels like for someone who hasn’t had a genuine home in over 21 years to actually come back to the place that feels like home, live on the installation and be reunited with friends and family.
You know, if my career were to end today, I wouldn’t be happy about it, but it would definitely be at my high point being here.
Q. What is your vision for Little Rock AFB under your command?
A. To do the mission day-to-day, and not have to worry about [those little details] at my level. I don’t need to dive down into the lowest tactical levels to find out if people are doing their jobs. Knowing those questions are already answered probably saves me six months [of time] so I can do things like reach out to the community, and I can host civic leader tours. [This allows us to] expand our horizon by transforming the wing into a C-130J wing, ensuring it’s right-sized and that it’s resourced to be combat effective. We’ll be first to get there, in what has been an 11-year transformation of transferring C-130H and E aircraft either into retirement or into the Reserve or Guard components. By producing combat aviators and C-130J’s that come together and go out into the far reaches of the globe and execute that mission comes a new paradigm, if you will, of looking at the way we do business. Being able to ensure that from the flightline to the front gate we’re resourced properly, our personnel are here properly, and that our infrastructure is right-sized—we don’t have excess capacity where we don’t need it.
What that means to us is we are being good stewards of taxpayers’ [money] when we’re doing everything we can, and we’ve ensured we have all the resources and training that we need. We trust our civilian leaders, and they trust us back; we have confidence they have our back, and we will do what we’re asked when called upon. Then to know I don’t have to worry about unit level dynamics: one, because I have great group commanders and unit level commanders, but, two, because the Airmen know what they’re doing and the pride they have in mission success goes beyond any need for me to ever micro-manage them.
Q. How would you describe the importance of our relationship with the Central Arkansas community?
A. What I see is not necessarily a ‘need’ to have an Air Force base here, but a true desire to have the Air Force base here. There are a lot of other places where you could fly C-130s, and we exhibit that in the state of Texas and Japan and Germany, but the reason we’re home to Combat Airlift and the center of all things C-130 is because we have a community that’s embraced our mission.
We have a partnership with the 314th Airlift Wing, 189th AW and the 913th Airlift Group that they find value in being in Arkansas; they genuinely enjoy being in Arkansas. When you have the perfect combination of an ‘at-home’ advantage, as well as mission impact, and then you have people who want to be here and people who strive to stay here and [thousands] who decided to retire here—I think that’s a testament to the community. Their desire to keep the mission here and the advantage we have is that we are much more effective through the community support we have–from all the way down to Hot Springs, north up to Vilonia and Russellville and across the state.
Q. What are your thoughts on leading Combat Airlifters?
A. I tell you, the thing that has made me put my uniform on every day and gotten me out the door is the Airmen. Whether I’m in the position to lead or whether I’m being charged to follow, the folks I have worked with over the last 21 years are the best people I’ve ever met.
The leadership part is an honor. It’s really sad when it goes away. I hope to lead every day; I hope to end each day thinking to myself ‘did I make a difference in anybody’s life today?’ Did I stop and talk to an Airman who I thought could use a ‘hello’ whether they were in a good mood or bad mood? And so, if I can’t find time in my day to do that, I regret it at the end of each day. I do my best to get out there and genuinely thank them, because as far as I’m concerned, I have the best job in the Air Force and if I can’t share that and make this tour as valuable for everybody on this base as it is for me, then I don’t feel like I did my job to its fullest.