SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – There is no sidestepping the obvious when it comes to Sheppard AFB – the Air Force’s combat capability truly does start here.
Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, and AETC Command Chief Master Sgt. Julie Gudgel, witnessed that first hand Feb. 19-20 when they experienced one of the most diverse and unique training bases in the Air Force.
“Every logistician in the Air Force begins their career right here. Every aircraft mechanic starts at a Sheppard AFB unit, whether it’s in North Texas or the Florida Panhandle. Fifty percent of the Air Force’s fighter pilots get their training here,” Webb said. “We can’t fight without our fighters and support aircraft. We can’t fly without our maintainers making sure every aircraft is airworthy, and those maintainers can’t continue generating sorties without the aircraft maintenance and munitions officers getting the equipment needed to do their jobs.”
This visit was Webb’s first since taking over the First Command in July 2019, while the chief has previously toured the only AETC base with technical and pilot training.
Taking AETC’s priority of “transforming the way we learn” to heart, Webb left Sheppard with a lasting first impression after seeing the innovation efforts underway here.
“We’re never going to get away from flying training sorties, turning wrenches on ground instructional trainers, digging climbing spikes into telephone poles, or running a fuel line from a truck to an aircraft,” Webb said. “But, we can leverage technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed realities into the training curriculum to develop expert officer and enlisted Airmen faster and create a better foundation earlier in their training.”
This may be his first time at Sheppard, but this isn’t the first time the new AETC commander has experienced Sheppard.
With a history as a combatant commander, Webb has seen Sheppard products in action, whether it’s piloting an aircraft, maintaining aircraft or getting logistics in place to accomplish the mission through the operational Air Force. Webb also has experience working with NATO Special Operations Headquarters in Belgium and understands the valuable international connections that start here at the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, as well as the strategic relationships formed with international partners on the 82nd Training Wing side.
“A component to being successful, wherever we might operate, is our ability to work with our international partners, on the ground and in the air,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be able to develop and cultivate those relationships at places like Sheppard, where allies are training alongside one another. Expanding our strategic relationships is one of my priorities, and Sheppard does just that every day.”
Critical mission elements of Sheppard weren’t the only highlights of the short two-day visit. The command team spouses, Dawna Webb and Robb Gudgel, took the opportunity to visit different support agencies around the base and discuss issues that affect care for base personnel and their families.
A few stops along the way included the newly opened Health Resiliency Center that promotes the overall wellness of Airmen, as well as touring base housing and hearing from Airman Leaders at the Solid Rock Café.
The message at the end of the day was the importance of Sheppard’s combat capability mission.
“What you do here in both wings really gets to the heart of what we are all about in the First Command—developing the Airmen we need and laying the foundations for a lethal and ready force,” Webb said.