Wright to USAF Leaders: Help Me Help Airmen Help the Air Force

CMSAF Kaleth Wright at speaking at AWS18 Feb. 22, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Air Force Magazine photo by Mike Tsukamoto.?

For CMSAF Kaleth Wright, one question from airmen stood out during his first year on the job: “Chief, how can we do more with less?”

Speaking at AWS18 Thursday morning, Wright said he thinks there’s a better question: How can USAF do less, better, faster, and be more efficient and lethal? The answer, he said, is “innovation,” a culture he argued must be “unleashed.”

Up until now, the Air Force has been inculcated with a culture gyrating between adaptation and innovation. Affixing mirrors to cover a driver’s blind spot is adaptation, Wright said. Replacing the driver with artificial intelligence is innovation. Ordering detergent from Amazon on a handheld is adaption, Wright said. Walking into one of the company’s new Amazon Go stores and walking out without ever speaking to a cashier—or anyone—is innovation.

“Adaptation is about the current fight,” he added. “Innovation is about the future.”

Calling that future imperative, Wright said USAF has to train better than the adversary does. And that has to happen now because of advances coming from near-peer adversaries. Today’s airmen will be taking the USAF that is in construction today to the war in 10 or 15 years. To do this, the service “must allow airmen to fail.”

Wright used as an example TSgt. Jeff Curtin, a photojournalist. Curtin came up with a concept to record USAF’s Special Operations Command flight training in 360 degrees not for simulators, but for classrooms, wherein access to that footage would be readily available.

“How many of you have recognized and taken advantage of all the Jeffs in your organizations?” Wright asked his audience. “This is a must. It’s something we have to do.”

Emphasizing a culture tolerant of failure and experimentation, Wright said he’s asking USAF’s leaders to help him help airmen help the Air Force get to “yes.”

To read more about Wright’s first year at work, read Air Force Magazine’s deep dive with him, which will be in the upcoming issue.