The jet age: Korea, Vietnam, cold war.
DICK ANDEREGG: Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedules. I think you will find this an interesting experience this afternoon. This is the second in a three-part series of "Living Legends" Seminars. The third session will be held next month. Last month's panel was on World War II; this panel is on the jet age, focusing mostly on Korea, Vietnam, and the advent of jet aircraft into the Air Force. Next month's panel will center on modern warfare
Our panel today is made up of interesting individuals, with very broad military experience. Immediately to my left is General Hal Hornburg, the former head of the Air Combat Command, with Forward Air Controller (FAC) experience in Vietnam. Seated immediately to his left is Air Vice Marshal "Paddy" Harbison, a former RAF fighter pilot. During his career he flew the Spitfire and the F-86 and was an exchange pilot with the 4th Wing in Korea. To his left is General James McInerney, a long-time Wild Weasel operator. Three of us on this stage are former Wild Weasels. Just to put this in perspective, my Wild Weasel number is 2217, Tom Hanton is 1437, and General McInerney's is 298. So, you can tell he was in on the ground floor and commanded the Wild Weasel unit at Korat in combat. Lieutenant Colonel Tom Hanton has much experience to share with us today. A longtime back seater and Wild Weasel Bear--mostly in the F-105G, the F-4, and in the leadership area--he has much to add from his twelve months as a prisoner of war in the depths of the North Vietnamese "Zoo" and "Hanoi Hilton."
So, that's our panel for today. We are going to discuss the same four topics we covered in the World War II panel: technology, tactics, training, and leadership. I have primed the to use a conversational type of format. When they have input, they'll chime in. We will have time for questions and answers at the end for about ten to fifteen minutes. To start off the discussion on technology, I'm going to ask Tom Hanton: You flew the F-4 through the 1970s and witnessed some dramatic changes between aircraft technology in the F-105 and then the F-4. You also saw a general upsurge in the application of technology throughout the Air Force. Please comment on your observations as you saw it.
LT. COL. HANTON: Thank you Dick. I want to thank everyone for their service to our country; I see a lot of uniforms out there. And I want to thank these three senior leaders for bringing us to this point--at least in my career. I'm the young guy in this crowd, and you guys are bringing up the next group of leaders, and I want to thank you for your service. The topic is technology. As you know, the Air Force is a technology-oriented service. When I went through the F-4 Replacement Training Unit (RTU), we flew the F-4C, the basic F-4 model.
When I got to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, we had the F-4D, which was a significant change. It had better radar and a better radar warning receiver. When I got into combat at Da Nang in 1972, we had the F-4E model, which had the gun. So in a period of just three years, I saw a significant improvement in the capability of a fighter--same model, but significantly different. It didn't have the slats yet, but it had more power and it had the gun, which influenced our tactics.
When we were going through F-4C training, we didn't know where we were going to be stationed: in Europe, Southeast Asia or the States. And so, the technology we learned in RTU was not what we saw when we got into our combat unit. When I came back from Southeast Asia, I ended up diverting into some non-flying jobs, and then I ended up in the F-105G, which in some respects was a step back from the F-4E. It had a gun, but the aerodynamics of the airplane were significantly different. The "Thud" was a great airplane, it could outrun a lot of competitors, but it didn't turn very well. Probably the biggest difference I noticed in the F-4 was when I became an initial cadre instructor in the F-4G. It was one of the first fighters that had a computerized weapon system, the APR-38, which was an integrated system with the gunsight. We didn't call it a gunsight, we called it a COS. It would pick out the target on the ground based on the emitter in the back seat and that was the electronic gear. I remember the first time I flew in the back seat of the F-4G; we had one on the ramp. I had been in the Thud for two years going to the Nellis ranges and you don't see a lot. There was no big picture in the back of the F-4G. We had a 10-inch scope and would pick up all of the signals. It would give you a planned position of where things were. I cannot imagine what the F-22 and the airplanes we have out there now with the situational awareness (SA) those guys have. It gave a Weasel guy a lot of SA. That's one reason we never lost any F-4Gs over in Desert Storm.
ANDEREGG: Would anybody on the panel care to add about their experience with changing technology while they were on active duty?
GEN. HORNBURG: I have several thoughts on technology and some of them may be contrary to the "airman on the street." I've always thought that technology was one of the four transformations that we've lived through in my lifetime: jet propulsion, nuclear power, stealth, and precision weapons. When I was a colonel, I read an interesting article by Carl Builder, called The Faces of Power. Builder was one of the leading thinkers at RAND. In this book, he contrasts the different services: Army, Navy, and Air Force (not the Marine Corps) by their mottos, their service academies, and by what they look like on the E-ring [of the Pentagon]. The Army is about "duty, honor, country" and at the chapel at West Point you see something of the earth and for the earth. The Navy's sea power symbol is the trident. At Annapolis the cadets are all about mission: "Give me my orders and I'll sail across the horizon. I'll be back in a year and you'll see the results." The Air Force is based on technology; we lead all of the services in technology. But it is also our greatest curse because we put technology at the head of the wrong train. Technology enables us to be any place and any time of our choosing. We can "find 'em, fix 'em, kill 'em" and not only on the ground or in the air, but in space and cyberspace. As technology moves ever faster, we airmen tend to lose our identities because that's what we're chasing; it gives us the leading edge, the cutting edge. We tend to think more about technology, while losing sight of our people.
ANDEREGG: Thank you. Air Vice Marshal Harbison, you had the opportunity to fly three different fighters and I'm sure there were others. What do you consider were the differences between the Spitfire and F-86 Sabre?
AIR VICE MARSHAL HARBISON: It was really a non-event; just another form of propulsion. I first flew a jet airplane in 1946 at the Central Fighter Establishment, our equivalent of the Top Gun. We had one squadron of Meteors at Manston And they were used for Doodlebug (anti-V-1 missions). They didn't take them to Germany or France because they didn't want to lose one.
I had an interesting experience during the last two weeks of World War II. I was leading my own squadron, which was equipped with P-51 Mustangs at the time. We were escorting 100 Lancasters to Bremen above an undercast of about 10,000 feet and an overcast of around 35,000 feet. We were attacked by twenty Me 262s. They had a speed advantage over us of about 100 knots. Their pilots must have been scrubs because they were slowing down behind the Lancasters to shoot at them. Because the Me 262s were throwing away their superiority, we managed to hobble one.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES McINERNEY: For those who don't remember the times, the Spitfire and the F-86 were the two leading fighters in the world at the time. So Paddy has modestly not brought that out. Obviously, they picked the right guy to take on these two airplanes.
HARBISON: I felt that the F-86 was the Spitfire of the "Jet Age," a magnificent airplane. It required a little more thrust, but from a handling point of view, it was honest, it was good. I was lucky to be on the first fighter group as an exchange pilot. We were newly equipped with the B-model F-80s in 1948. We were the first squadron to reequip with the F-86 in the USAF in February 1949 and that's when I first flew it. We made life miserable for the Marines at El Toro and the Navy at San Diego by running on and overflying their airfield all the time. Of course, we would say "We'll meet you over at San Yacinto at 20." They would be up at 30 and we would be at 40.
McINERNEY: For those of you who didn't have the opportunity to fly the F-86, I would say that its greatest attribute was that you could look over your left shoulder and see out of the right side of the airplane. It had great visibility. When we moved on to other airplanes, like the F-100 and F-105 we really missed that visibility.
ANDEREGG: And that was not reintroduced until the F-15.
McINERNEY: Good point.
ANDEREGG: Let's move on to tactics. General McInerney, you were a Wild Weasel and in fact commanded the F-105 Weasel operation that opened a whole new mission area for the Air Force. Could you talk to us a bit about tactics development.
McINERNEY: I'd be delighted. It's an honor to be here. I like the title of this event; at my age it would be delightful if you just said living. I was at a West Point graduation and called upon to describe the difference between the Air Force in which I was commissioned and the Air Force of today. Believe me, they are two totally different air forces. Before I discuss tactics there are a couple of things I want to say. First, the concern for people and second, the equipment we buy for them. I'll talk about the first point with an anecdote. When I went through the F-86 training program at Nellis, of course, the Air Force elected not to buy any two-seat F-86s. So, you had to chase ride with an instructor flying your wing and getting you around the pattern. The second flight was a formation flight where you had an instructor pilot and two other students--a flight of four. On my second flight I was up with the legendary "Red Dog" Hendricks, commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron. After about twenty minutes we were up around 25,000 feet and my plane flamed out. For those of you not familiar with the F-86, it was a single engine airplane and this was a serious situation. In desperation I called, "Cobra Red Leader, this is Two, I've just flamed out." Now, in today's Air Force, and I think General Homburg will agree with me, the flight leader would have sent three or four off to some pre-briefed, alternate mission. He would have throttled back, circled around, gotten on my wing, read a checklist to me, and made sure I was at the proper glide speed--all of those kinds of things. And the fire engines and ambulances would be waiting at Nellis, but not in "Red Dog" Hendricks' day. There was a little silence, a voice came over the radio, "Get the blankety, blank thing started and get back in formation. Back then, it was a tough Air Force.
Going into Phoenix the other night, I saw one of the remnants of the old flight lines we used for navigation around the country and I think of all the thousands of hours we burned up learning to navigate. Today, all you have to think about is the little gadget everybody has in his car, boat, and airplane--the Global Positioning System. I think that General Homburg gave a couple of good examples.
Back to the Wild Weasel tactics, which I hope that people would like to hear about. As most students of air warfare know, the USAF has had total air superiority since the 1943 Battle of Kasserine Pass, when the Luftwaffe ate us up. But we almost lost that in the early 1960s. The Soviets had armed North Vietnam with their best SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile. The SAMs were chewing up our tactical reconnaissance and tactical fighter forces pretty bad. So, the Air Force established the Wild Weasel program under the leadership of General "Casey" Dempster. They put things together in a great hurry--they shoe-horned electronic sensing devices into available F-105Fs.
Less than one year after the force was put together, in November 1965, the first 100 Weasels went off to Korat, Thailand. Operational test and evaluation was to be conducted in combat. That's pretty serious stuff, you know, to have a chance to fly it again and they did quite well. They had taught us at Nellis. Demonstrated the feasibility of this concept and showed that the F-100 was insufficiently robust to carry out the mission. So the Air Force ordered the conversion of the F-105Fs and that worked well. Things were happening fast; I was flying the F-4D in the 36th Wing based in Germany. I had volunteered to go back to the F-105 because a lot of the F-4s were flying in South Vietnam and I wanted to fly.
"You're going to be a Wild Weasel." I picked up a lot: how to locate a SAM site; how to attack it, shoot it up. Maybe how to locate a SAM site, attack it, how to fire a Shrike against the enemy. But they didn't teach us what we really wanted to know, and that was how to get a strike force safely in and out of a SAM-defended area. They simply didn't have the assets at Nellis. In fact, they didn't have it until Red Flag several years ago.
HARBISON: I would like to say a few words about the Korean air war because that's where a lot of tactics were evolved. I was in the Central Fighter Establishment in West Raynham, which is our equivalent of Nellis in a mini-fashion during the Korean war. And I had just come back from the Exchange at March Air Force Base with the 1st Fighter Group. The RAF was very interested in finding out what was going on in Korea and how the tactics were going. Finally, the Chief of Staff of the USAF agreed that a team of four could go from West Raynham out to Korea to observe. It was led by a very well known World War II ace named Johnny Baldwin, myself as the squadron leader, and two flight lieutenants. I was current on the F-86, but the other two just got three rides apiece down at Bentwaters on some A models before going out. They really weren't qualified, and shouldn't have flown them, but they did. Baldwin and one of the other people were assigned to the 51st Fighter Group at Suwon; I was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group, as was the other one to the 335th Fighter Squadron. The tactics as I say were not the discussion of the moment, but the training was excellent. They had a thing called Clobber College, which lasted about four days, and where you learned escape and evasion, and also how to fly the F-86. I thought having flown the F-86 for 18 months that I knew something about it, but really I didn't. Because these people at Clobber College flew to limits that I had never seen before, and it was very interesting, indeed; and, in fact, you had to do that to survive. But all sorts of tactics were involved. The use of contrails, and finding where the contrail level was. We'd send a mission, a weather-recce mission off in the morning to find where the levels were; and, either just fly below the contrail level or in it, if you wanted to be seen. And, we used that tactic and the MiGs did as well. We tried flying at fluid-sixes. We did finger-fours. We saturated the area in twos to keep it saturated. Flight Safety rules were--I would say--suspended during that period, because both the 51st and ourselves were working off half a runway. The other side was being surfaced at the time I was there. The intensity of operations was tremendous, and we were averaging perhaps two or three flame-out landings a day on the airfield. It wasn't unusual, if you were short on fuel, to stop cock the engine--the wind was westerly and in your favor--fly back 90 miles, fire it up again, if it would fire up, and land. If it didn't fire up, you landed anyway. I was instantly impressed with the standard of flying. On the same base at Kimpo, the Australians had number 77 Squadron with Meteor Reds which had been supplied by the RAF. The Meteor was outclassed when it came against critical Mach at .85 and they relegated it to ground attack. It was very good at ground attack--being twin engined. They developed a very good weapon--it was a 60-lb, high velocity rocket with a 10-gallon napalm head at the top of it. The Chinese hated it because you could punch these into the caves that they were in. I did some missions with the 77 Squadron when I was there. As I said, it was the first jet war of jet vs. jet, and I think a lot of the tactics that evolved later on were evolved there.
HANTON: One of the things I noticed when I went through Holloman was that we had three different missions. We had a nuclear mission, which was a single-ship one; we had our air defense part which was two to four airplanes; and, then we had close air support. Those were our three missions. You trained differently in all three of those with tactics. The single-ship obviously that's real easy to understand. The other two were almost entirely different on how you get your flight to form that mission; and with the jet airplane and, in particular, the F-4, the kind of air-to-air training before we had the gun that is the dynamics are entirely different because you're not trying to get a gun solution, you are trying to get a missile solution. So, the tactics and the training were different in all three of the airplanes and all three of the missions that's one of the challenges. It's easy to say where you had the technology and it's easy to say we couldn't do the training. But those missions were a real challenge. I think the Air Force did a pretty marvelous job considering those kinds of constraints, and the fact that we were given an airplane that was not designed to do air-to-air, or to do surface attack and all those kinds of things. I think, the Air Force did a pretty good job. I know I was happy. The leadership were guys who were just outstanding and they were the ones that made it work.
HARBISON: The F-86 defensive maneuver was a hard diving turn. The reason it had to be diving was that we had insufficient thrust, and that was to keep up the speed. But, I remember at this convention that I attended where I was talking about the F-86 vs. the MiG 15, one chap said, "Did you pull much G?" And I said, "we ran out of G and went in a ditch."
HORNBURG: When you look back at how tactics evolved in my 36 years in the Air Force, I think that we probably are tactically looking over our shoulder and doing the best we can. But all we can do is fly the way we fly against the threat that we last saw. Take the baseline between the tactics that we started using in Vietnam against the surface-to-air missile threat, everything became low-level including, other than in South Vietnam, the B-52 ARC LIGHT strikes. But in North Vietnam everything there was low. We came out of there and for 20 years everything was low. You went to the duty desk, you found out who was in your four-ship. You walked out the door with a 4-ship and probably you got off with a 3-ship, and sometimes a 2-ship. If you go back to the USAFE days, you know, due to the maintenance problems and what not, you might have flown two hours later an instrument mission, but your plan was to fly a 4-ship. You would go up and if the weather was good, it was always a low level. Then when we transitioned from the F-4 into the F-15E at Seymour Johnson, the same people flying the F-15E in the initial cadre came from the F-4. So, what do you think the tactics were in the F-15E. When we went to Desert Shield, the tactics were: you flew, you took off for the 4-ship, and you flew low; and you took off at night and you flew low. Using the FLIR and the LANTIRN system it was scary stuff. It was like a 30-minute ILS at 200 feet at night and it was not fun. Chuck Homer, I think, was the single most important person who changed the tactics in the last 25 years, and he did it by edict and fiat, not because he knew something was going to work. He knew that we could suppress Saddam's air defenses enough where the survival-rate would go up for everyone if we flew at medium altitude versus low level. It was like giving birth to 200 kicking and screaming children because we knew better than General Horner. Well, we understood though that we would be court-martialed if we flew low and I was a wing-commander then. So I was more on his side then the captain's at that time. But he was absolutely right. To my knowledge that's the first time that I ever saw--and there haven't been many similar cases since then--where a major commander said, "This is the way we are going to fly." He didn't let the weapons officers dictate the tactics based on what they thought the tactics should be vis-a-vis 20 years of history. So what do we do today? We're pretty much using precision weapons, Stealth or non-Stealth on our air frames. But by and large we are flying at medium to high altitude, and we find that we can put close air support in with a JDAM from 35,000 in a B-52, and it doesn't depend on the time or flight of the weapon any more. So, I think what we need to do is challenge ourselves as senior leaders in the Air Force to make sure that what we are doing tactically makes sense for what our capabilities bring to the fight, versus what our last enemy was. We have to train for the most pertinent threat and the harshest of circumstances and conditions. But we can't do it with an eye in the rearview mirror--we have to be looking forward.
McINERNY: I follow General Homburg with the reminder that General Homer of the 13th Fighter Squadron was a Wild Weasel product. So, he must have learned something right there. I sort of left you off with getting into the business of the tactics of the Iron Hand flight, getting the strike force in and out of the SAM-defended area. One of the problems that we faced over there was of the two wings: one in Takhli and one in Korat. You used completely different tactics for their fighters carrying bombs. Both of them put four Iron Hand four-ships up for 16 airplanes--four flights of four. The folks at Takhli liked to come in at low altitude and pitch up. Whereas, the people at Korat used the ECM pods. They put a big gaggle of 16 airplanes in a big box formation, and were very comfortable with what the EWOs told them--that the ECM completely blocked out the picture on an SA-2 scope. There is every reason to believe that it happened. The losses at Takhli in August 1967 were six times what Korat lost. Part of the problem was that it took almost five minutes for the four flights of four at Takhli to go in and off the target; whereas, it was a minute to a minute and a half for all 16 airplanes to roll in on the target for the Korat birds. General John Gerardo went over there in September, and things changed very quickly at Takhli. One of the problems we had over there, and I'm pleased to report this has been corrected, was the wide gap between intelligence and operations. A couple of anecdotes--one weekend I had to fly two Package Six missions in a row. The second day I noticed that none of the SAM sites--remember the North Vietnamese had some 400 SAM sites in some 36 operating batteries that they shuffled around-were occupied. I said to the intelligence officer, "Hey, the SAM sites that were occupied that I showed you yesterday aren't there." He said, "Well, you got to understand, the briefing that you gave me yesterday is now down in Tan Son Nhut, being prepared to ship back to Ft. Meade, and we can't give it to you until Ft. Meade blesses it." I said, "Well, how long does that take?" "About three weeks." I solved the problem with a local solution. The flight commander attended every one of the debriefings and brought back the results to the guys flying the next mission. I say that to you with the full knowledge and understanding that that problem has been corrected. The first thing that the Iron Hand flight had to do going into the target area was to confirm the information he had on which sites might be a threat to the strike force. The SA-2 crews knew who we were that we weren't really a threat to them--and very seldom did they shoot at us. But it confirmed the kind of information we got from intelligence. A diving turn got you out of the area because the old Thud could outrun a SAM in most cases. But, it's not a reciprocal heading to the strike force coming in. The position behind the strike force let you take full advantage of the tactical situation below. If an SA-2 site came up in high PRF and threatened to shoot at them, you would immediately get a Shrike or the Iron Hand flight would roll in on them. So we cut the losses way down with that kind of maneuver. After the strike force was out, of course, the Iron Hand flight leader was cleared to take on any SAM sites that indicated they were being aggressive that day. One of the things we said we would talk about was the improvements in weaponry. When we started, we had a Navy-developed weapon--the Shrike, the AGM--45--that had a range of 72 miles. Unfortunately, the SA-2 range was about 30 miles. One of my guys described it as entering a sword fight with a penknife and that's about what it was. The Navy upped things with the AGM-78, the Standard ARM missile, a two thousand-pound-class weapon. I would give it a range of about 100 miles. It seemed pretty good at first, but the Standard was built to operate at sea-level, and not be exposed to the temperatures at 45,000 feet. So, guess what happened after four or five flights? The thing blew up in front of your face. Thanks to the Navy again at China Lake, they came up with the HARM missile with the high-speed, anti-radiation missile, which has proved its worth at every combat action since then. I can't give you the range because it is classified, but it is a good example what the services can do working together.
ANDEREGG: I knew that once I opened up the tactics part that everybody had a lot to say. I would like to move on to training. Of course, one of the things that everyone on the panel has in common and they have in common with all of you out there is that we have been through many different kinds of training programs in the Air Force, and I would like to start this point off on training with Air Vice Marshal Harbison, who has the perspective of having gone through RAF training, and probably been an RAF trainer himself, as well as U.S. Air Force training. Sir would you give us some perspective that you recall from the differences in the training.
HARBISON: It's been a great privilege for me to have flown in three separate USAF fighter squadrons. This has afforded me a fairly unique opportunity to observe how another air force trains and operates for similar-type missions to ourselves. First class training is an imperative for any fighting service to keep the cutting edge sharp and effective. The value of innovative tactics or, indeed, sophisticated equipment is very much lessened if the pilot or the operator has not mastered the skills to control and utilize his equipment. Fighter pilots have easily recognized characteristics. They are handsome, debonair, superbly fit, and sometimes guilty to gross exaggeration. Others allege that they wear large wristwatches and even larger egos. All the members of this panel are former fighter pilots. So, judge for yourself. Despite some differences in flying training philosophy, the RAF and USAF pilots are fairly interoperable, and the exchange scheme has borne this out. Some differences though. In the Royal Air Force, an A-l, category qualified flying instructor is held in very, very high regard. To achieve A-1 status in a category takes lengthy training, good instructional technique, and ability. It is a mark of real-attainment and status. Surprisingly, in my time--and I don't know if it has changed--in the United States Air Force, flying instructors enjoyed less status, and to be selected as an instructor was considered not to be career-enhancing. In fact, they call it, "The Kiss of Death." The advent of simulation has saved expensive aircraft flying errors in both the Royal Air Force and the USAF, but the balance of flying versus simulator time needs to be watched. Simulators lack the "pucker" factor. In the RAF, it was customary SOP to shut down an engine when practicing single engine flying on a twin-engine aircraft. The USAF did not do that in my time. They just pulled one back to idle, but in that they lost some realism. Practicing single-engine flying in multi-engine aircraft can be quite exciting. In the Mosquito, which was a pretty high performer, twin-engine prop driven, it was not unusual for the instructor--on takeoff just as your wheels were coming into the well--to kill one engine. The trouble was that sometimes they killed the student because the realism was being overtaken by the risk itself. I have an open mind on whether it was a good thing or not. I'm not a QFI, but Bill Gibson who is in the ordnance field and an RAF group captain, has more experience than I have, and he perhaps will answer some of your questions later. I would like to say that to me flying with the USAF really wasn't much different from the Royal Air Force. The bottom line is we were all very much the same. Even today, whenever I hear the band strike up "Off we go into the wild, blue yonder ..." I feel the same sense of empathy and of belonging as I did when I hear the Royal Air Force march past.
HANTON: I have one instance of training with the Marines. When I was in Da Nang, we had a squadron of F-4s from the Marine Corps, and they had been doing strictly air-to-air, and that's where the Navy--they always talked about the Top Gun school. The reason they had a Top Gun school was that their F-4s only did air-to-air, they didn't do air-to-ground. So, that's one of the reasons they set up a Top Gun school--before we had Red Flag. But slipping back to my other occasion, they didn't train the Marines to be air-to-air guys. They were air-to-ground guys most of the time. This Marine's squadron was coming in to support the war in 1972, when in Vietnam, when the North Vietnamese came across the border. These guys needed to be checked out and I was one of the instructors who helped do it. Well, we didn't go through some of these basic training things like what "comm out" signals do you guys use, for example, the Echelon right or left, and those kinds of things. We were coming back to Da Nang after one of our close air support missions, and we were trying to get the guys to echelon one way or the other. Of course, in the Air Force we had to do a wing-dip and a directional, and you don't want the guy to be echeloning. Of course we were giving them wing dips, and they just sat there flying along. The point is that we have a lot of similarities, but we need to get down to these basic fundamental events when you go fly airplanes. I know these guys can probably tell a thousand more stories that are more humorous than those. But that was one of the training things that I remember. We did all the other things--how to deliver ordnance, contact the FAC and all of those other things. But some of the basics, we just forgot about them. Unfortunately, they can get you killed.
HORNBURG: When I think of training, I think of training at both the apprentice and the advanced level. It's not just training in the Jet Age or training in any age. I have often said that I never had a job in the Air Force I wasn't properly trained to do. Sometimes that training though was overkill. When I was the commander of AETC, one of the things I loved to do the most was to visit tech training bases and seeing how our NCOs trained young airmen to be electricians or crew chiefs or firemen, or civil engineers. I have not had the opportunity to see another nation's or another air force's training up close as Air Marshal Harbison has, but, I can think of no one that has a better training capability than the United States Air Force. Training is both formal and informal. You are training every day. I think we do something very well. We very seldom, if ever, put someone in a job of increased responsibility where either people or resources are at risk, and we haven't given him or her the necessary training to at least have a fighting chance of doing the job right.
McINERNY: My mind wandered as Paddy was talking about the Meteor. When I was in Korea, the Australians had the Meteors in 77 Squadron, and occasionally, we'd get mixed up with them a little bit. They had a very nasty habit of pulling up in a hammerhead stall and then chopping one of the engines. If you have ever seen an airplane come down at you--wing tip over wing tip--it'll frighten you a little bit. But, I have to agree with the comments made about the accuracy of the training that our people get. I think it's very important, and I hope we can continue to afford to do that because anything else would be unwise.
HANTON: I would like to add to what General Hornburg hit on and that's training. One of the things the Air Force has started doing in the last five years is to train our senior leaders to be combat commanders. That was one of the things that we didn't do very well, certainly, after Vietnam and maybe even beyond that. But, they have trained the senior leaders how to be combat commanders at that level. I don't know if the other services have done that. But one of the things that has impressed me is the changes in training, the CAOCs and all those types of things. As a result, our senior leaders are better prepared to go to war.
ANDEREGG: While we are talking about senior leaders, let's move on to leadership. General Hornburg, not only have you commanded at every level in the Air Force from squadron to major command, but you have spoken widely and published as well on leadership. Did your view of leadership change as a second lieutenant fresh out of "Aggieland" (Texas A&M), advanced to General Hornburg sitting at the same desk used by Momyer, Dixon, and Creech?
HORBURG: The short answer is yes. You know, there are wonderful leaders who are at the grade of airman or lieutenant, or general or chief master sergeant. I think everybody's leadership is based on not only their DNA, but who they were exposed to and what lessons they learned. Life's lessons determine your thrust as a leader. I was very lucky as a captain I was an aide to a wonderful four star general named Bill Evans. When I was a major and lieutenant colonel, I got to watch up close how General Bill Creech developed leaders, and he didn't do it with a blunt instrument. He was very insightful and incisive on how he approached things. I got reacquainted with him when I was the commander of the Ninth Air Force in CENTAF right after Desert Fox. Spent many times in General Creech's house--just one-on-one--talking about many things. I think it helped me understand that as a leader, there's a certain point in your career where you stop leading as much by presence as you do leading by principle. You are at a level where your presence isn't sufficient to cover all of the bases. I think the seminal event in my life though that caused me to believe in the basic attribute and the basic strand of DNA in the Air Force that makes us great is our people. That happened to come and to sink in when I was a Vice Commander of Air Combat Command before taking over the training command. Back in 1999, we had a very minor situation that caused major repercussions in the Air Force. We failed for the first time in recent history by about 80 airmen to make our recruiting goals. So what did we do? We rolled up our sleeves, we gave recruiting service more money, and we said we'll never again fail to meet our recruiting goals. I started thinking, why do we need to recruit 36,000 airmen? The reason was that 36,000 airmen were hemorrhaging out the back door. So, why weren't we retaining airmen? What were we doing to retain airmen? Why did we let a 10 or 12-year tech sergeant go out the backdoor and replace him with a brand new "green bean" right out of basic training, and say the numbers are equal so everything is good. I started putting an emphasis on retention. I thought we could do that by making sure that commanders at every level--and supervisors at every level--started making sure that the most important thing they did was develop and nurture airmen. I was stuck on people. I was tired of seeing senior leaders go out and spend 30 minutes talking about technology or tactics or training, and then in the last-minute--whoops, I've got to go. By the way, our most important resource is people. That just didn't make much sense to me, so I would talk 20 minutes about people and ten minutes about the other stuff.
I did that because I learned good lessons and bad lessons from good leaders and bad leaders. They all go into your tool-box. If you are just perceptive enough to realize there are things out there you need to pay attention to that will help you as you go up the ladder of success. But you must have your eyes focused on your people, and you fight for your people otherwise take the leadership lessons and the books and everything, and throw them in the fireplace because they are of no use if you don't have a real soft spot in your heart for the goodness and the well-being and the upward mobility of the people who make the Air Force great.
HANTON: I would like to take a little twist to that. One of the things that I observed starts with the day I got shot down. Going back to the tactics discussions we had, because of a lot of bad training, which goes into the other subjects we had. The leadership part and the people part are exactly right. That's the key part. I ended up in a room with five guys whom I didn't choose to be with. I couldn't walk out the door. You have to be able to get along with people; and you have to get things done with people; and you have to continue to fight because we were warriors, and we didn't give up the fight just because we were not in the air. I happened to be in a room with four other airmen--all F-4 guys--who came from different backgrounds. We had two Academy guys in that room, and I know how they teach the guys at the Academy-they teach them integrity and all these things that the Air Force actually teaches all of us. Those are the things that come out in a situation where you are under stress every day. Communication was a key thing. You know, the fact that I was a POW for nine months was not the issue. It's what did I bring home from that? That's getting along with the people, and that's what I've tried to do in my 25-year career in the Air Force was to communicate with the people that I worked with and that I've worked for. Having confidence that these people could do what they are supposed to do. You have to have confidence in the folks in that room that they were going to live up to the Geneva Convention, and that I could trust that they would do things--I was the senior ranking guy in the building, I was a captain--so that tells you that the other guys were either lieutenants or younger captains. We had a chain-of--command organization. All of those kinds of things were important, and they are all things the things that we do every day in the Air Force. And, everybody tries to communicate with your family--all these things. They are day-to-day things--they are not really any different. We had to have goals every day. We had to have a structure--we had a military organization. We did things every day that were important. Yes, they were very minor things, but they are the same kinds of things you do--just different nouns. We do different nouns now in our day-to-day jobs here. When you are flying an airplane, you're doing different things, but you are really doing the same thing--and getting along with people and meeting the people. You know the guy who was above me, for example, in our building--I was his second in command. He got sick and they took him away, and so I became the commander and some other guy became the other commander. So, we had an organizational structure, and we stuck with it, and we learned to trust each other. Those are the kinds of things that people bring home. To me the important lesson that I learned out of that nine-month period was to have faith. I knew the government was going to bring me home; I had faith that our leadership in the Air Force were going to take care of us when we got home, and they did. I had faith in myself that I could do it. There were guys there who had been there seven years. They were leading the way for us. I saw that fighters, just like these guys, have led the way; General McInerny in the weasel business. When I came there later on, there was a good vector already started, we just improved it. That's leadership absolutely in all--it's the thing that ties it all-together. All these other things are just part of the equation, mainly it's leadership.
McINERNY: Pretty hard to follow two very eloquent statements on leadership. I think the most important thing is to be able to find out in any given circumstance whether your message is getting through, whether the people who are working for you understand that you have all these things in mind for them. It's very easy to get the wrong message, because you want to hear that you are doing right. You've got to really pay attention to what it is that irks the troops. Sometimes, there is a very easy way to capture their respect. I recall--that I was given seven days to get to Germany and take over the wing at Zweibrucken. When I got there it was quite obvious why the change was made. I did a very simple thing. You don't always have this kind of an opportunity. We had a couple of airmen who were given Article 15s for walking across the grass. I looked over to where they were walking, and there was no grass there--a lot of people had walked there. I had our civil engineer put a sidewalk there. And, I want to tell you--I heard about that for a couple of months--every time I would go to the NCO club or the Airmen's club you are not always presented with an opportunity to do something easy like that. But, as a commander, you really ought to seek out those opportunities.
HARBISON: When I was at wing level, we had a Canadian wing leader during World War II, an old timer who had peculiar ideas on leadership. He used to say, "You fellows don't need to know where you are going, just follow me." And that was it. He was serious. So, we did.
HORNBURG: I just wanted to remind all of you who are here, who have years to go wearing a uniform, that as others have helped you and shown you the way, you need to give as much as you have gotten. And, you need to be mentors. We're here for one reason and that's to pay back. We're paying back what others gave us. They say you stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Let others stand on your shoulders, as well.
HARBISON: Wing Commander Johnnie Johnson the top-scoring RAF pilot in World War II was on exchange at Thai headquarters in 1948 when I was at March AFB. He was in the officer training division. One day the phone rang and a very irascible voice on the other end called up and said, "What about the annual fly-by, we haven't heard from you yet?" He said, "What annual fly-by is that?" "With the Mayor of Yorktown." He said, "It's the annual fly-by to celebrate the defeat of the god-damned British." And I said, "Well, I've got news for you, they're back."
ANDEREGG: Colonel Eisen, if you want to ask a question, there's a microphone there so everyone can hear you.
EISEN: The question I have is now with technology you have to ask for permission for everything. Is that a good or a bad thing with progressing technology?
HORNBURG: You mean have permission to expend weapons? In its absolute sense, it is neither good or bad. Technology is what has allowed that linkage to occur where now people can. I know you want me to tell-you that it's bad, and it probably is. When someone goes out, they have to be given understandable Rules of Engagement. They have to be able to have the judgment to know where those Rules of Engagement apply within the context of what's going on at the time-and they need to be trusted to do the right thing. Having said that though, let me give you just an anecdote that goes back to my experience running the CAOC during the Bosnia operations. We have come to a point in our history where the act of one airman--or the act of one soldier can tilt strategic relationships. Think back, and I won't go into much detail here, but just think back if you remember that someone released a precision munition with a seeker and with an optical video and, I think it was probably a Maverick. This was in Kosovo and I remember, it blew up a train. It wasn't aimed at a train, but, he releases the weapon, and a train gets in the way at the time of detonation. It put that operation in Kosovo on its head for two weeks. Now, that's not getting totally at your question because if someone had said "fire" it wouldn't have made any difference. But, we are at the point right now where a mistake can make a strategic difference. That is not to say that commanders from the rear should be intrusive into what's really going on because they are not there, but the technology has given them the opportunity to do so, and given the opportunity to be either proactive or non-active, the propensity for all type-A personalities is to take action if given the opportunity.
ANDEREGG: Air Vice Marshal Harbison, or General McInerny, Colonel Hanton, would you like to jump in? We're talking about doing more with less; or the same with less; and motivating people--keeping them inspired to do the mission.
McINERNY: Well, that question really is something new. We've all always been constrained. We've always been hurting. We think of the good old days, but were they really good old days? Do we have that largesse? I question that really. Maybe we don't have the resources that we once had, but we also have gotten a whole lot smarter in the way that we use those resources. So, don't think it's today's problem, really, but I could be wrong.
HORNBURG: Commanders need to understand you can't do more with less. That's just bad arithmatic. You can only do less with less, but you can do things smarter today than you did yesterday. I'll tell you though what leaders probably need to do is understand that the resources at the field are waning; they're not what they were two or three years ago. But, guess what? Two or three years ago they were not what they were six years ago. So, General McInerny is exactly right on that. But you can't make the mistake for example to walk in the command post and say to the Commander, "Why is that trash can half-full?" I'm giving you a story that I heard from a captain, very recently when that happened. The answer was, "Sir, I don't know what to tell you but it's a trash can, that's what it's there for, and we don't have contractors any more to take out the trash, so we can either take out the trash so we'll have an empty trash can, or we can run this command post the way you want us to standards of the MAJCOM." You commanders have to pass up the opportunity to be dumb in a public place.
HARBISON: The people who need to be educated are the politicians who are consistently demanding that we do more with less. It's happening all the time.
GENERAL ALLISON HICKEY: I would like to address this question to any of you who might be able to discuss. Were there times in the Korean War or some years into that we were facing in the Air Force that was largely populated by weapons systems that were experiencing a great deal of problems. We seem to be facing the same particular issue in the next ten years or so. Do you see any correlations in American history relative to this?
ANDEREGG: If I can rephrase it. Her point is that at the start of the outbreak of war in Korea, the Air Force had undergone a considerable downsizing and had much old equipment when the war started in 1950. And do we see similarities between that and our aging fleet, and aging equipment today.
HARBISON: Absolutely right.
HORNBURG: I could give you another--as Chuck Homer would say--another paradigm--go out and pick up a book called Prodigal's Soldiers by James Kitfield. Read the transformation in the Nation's approach to the fabric of warfare from Vietnam to the Gulf War. Then put that aside and look at where we are with our defense today. Then ask, see what obvious questions come to mind. I can't discuss Korea, but I can tell you that the Army was coming apart at the seams, there were discipline problems, there were these kinds of problems. Air was playing a certain role in Vietnam. There was a fundamental shift in the way that we approached things and it was led by people like Barry McCaffrey, Colin Powell, Chuck Horner, Bill Creech, and others who had the Vietnam experience, and said, "these things will not happen again." Now, I'm starting to read from leaders in the Army and the Air Force and the Navy. There are things going on now that these things can't happen again. It's frightening. I think there are many similarities, and I think that the fabric of the military is being somewhat shredded, and it will come together again. But, it is going to take smart people stepping up and making sure that we don't repeat the mistakes from the past, but we already have. Pick up that book as a baseline, and then give some thought to where the military and the Nation need to go from 2001 on. I think you have a really interesting set of circumstances and correlations to put your arms around it, and wrestle with.
Gen. Hal Hornburg, USAF (Ret.)
Air Vice Marshal "Paddy" Harbison, RAF (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. James McInerney, USAF (Ret.)
Lt. Col. Tom Hanton, USAF (Ret.)
General Hal Homburg entered the USAF in 1968 as a graduate of Texas A&M's ROTC program. From October 1969 through September 1970, he served as an 0-1 forward air controller with the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron, Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, Qui Nhon, Pleiku, and Gia Nghia, South Vietnam. He served in various command and flying positions and ultimately retired in January 2005 as Commander. Air Combat Command. General Homburg is a command pilot with over 4,400 flying hours. His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Defense Superior Service Medal.
Air Vice Marshal William "Paddy" Harbison joined the Royal Air Force in 1941. AVM Harbison flew Spitfires and Mustangs in the European theatre until the end of World War II. In 1948, he was assigned to March AFB, California as an exchange pilot with the 1st Fighter Group flying F-86s. AVM Harbison served a tour in Korea during the Korean War with the USAF 4th Fighter Group. AVM Harbison returned to the US in 1972 as the Air Attache and Commander RAF Staff in Washington, D.C.. In 1977, AVM Harbison became a Companion of the Order of Bath.
Major General James McInerney enlisted in the Army in September 1947 and served as a parachute infantryman until June 1948 when he entered the U.S. Military Academy. In 1953, he was assigned to Air Defense Command as a fighter-interceptor pilot and later transferred to Korea in the 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. In March 1967, he was assigned to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. He commanded the F-105 unit which conducted "Wild Weasel" surface-to-air missile attacks called "Ryan Raider" night-penetration missions and deep-strike interdiction sorties. General McInerney is a command pilot with more than 5,400 flying hours. His decorations include the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Flying Cross with six Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star.
Lieutenant Colonel Tom Hanton was commissioned in 1967, receiving his Navigator wings in 1969. On June 27, 1972, during his 135th combat mission, while assigned to the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam his F-4E was shot down by a North Vietnamese Air Force MiG 21. For the next 12 months Lt Col Hanton was a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton and Zoo prisons in North Vietnam. Lt. Col Hanton's 25-year Air Force career was evenly divided between operational flying and staff assignments. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star with Valor, and the Purple Heart.
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|Publication:||Air Power History|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2007|
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