Greater heights: General Sharp helped prepare command for 21st century.
Maj. Gen. Alan G. Sharp wan a quiet and intuitive officer who knew well the airlift days of old and yet leaned forward into the fast-approaching future of high technology and the Air Force! Reserve's ever-broadening missions and global taskings.
In 1986, General Sharp assumed the duties as vice commander, Headquarters Air Force Reserve. He brought years of airlift experience and a proven leadership style to an Air Force Reserve that had begun to acquire greater roles thanks to the Total Force concept.
General Sharp joined with the newly appointed commander. Maj. Gen. Roger P. Scheer, a seasoned veteran from the lighter world, and together these two officers set about the task of preparing to lead the Air Force Reserve into the 21st century. As General Scheer learned more about the airlift environment from General Sharp's perspective and experience and visa versa, the duo molded into an effective leadership team that helped propel the Air Force Reserve forces to greater heights of combat readiness. This proved to be a key factor in how these forces successfully conducted themselves during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
General Sharp began his Air Force career in 1953. He flew several airframes throughout his career, becoming a qualified pilot in the C-46. C-119, C-124 and C-141. 1 first came to know him when he assumed his final Air Force Reserve assignment before retiring as vice commander.
As his executive officer and aide-de-camp, I can honestly say I never met a more dedicated and ethical officer in my lifetime. The general quickly became my mentor. General Sharp wanted to literally take the headquarters to the field. As I understand it. this visitation initiative (to the extent that he conducted it) had not been accomplished with this much intensity since the days of Maj. Gen. Richard Bodycombe (circa 1979).
From 1986 to 1990. I became a travel agent extraordinaire, arranging visits, transportation and itineraries that involved not just the two of us but several members of the general's headquarters staff as we journeyed on unit training assembly weekends across the globe. During this four-year period, we visited more than 90 installations stretching from the East Coast to the Pacific Island of Guam.
General Sharp's purpose in making these visits was two-fold. First, his presence sent a strong signal that the senior leadership was appreciative of Reservists' service and wanted to hear firsthand about their unique unit problems as well as their benchmark processes. Additionally, taking some of his key staff members along with him gave them the opportunity to see and hear how the UTAs were being conducted and all the pre-planning involved in making things happen.
Besides being dedicated to his job as vice commander to more than 68,000 Air Force Reservists, General Sharp always kept ethics at the forefront of his day-to-day life. As his aide, 1 was instructed to always pay for our keep. I say that with admiration because there were countless times the hosting commanders during our UTA visits would schedule breakfasts, lunches and dinners with their troops and families. Nearly always the commanders said, as I began to pay them for the costs involved, that it wasn't necessary. Although he appreciated their hospitality, the general's response was always the same: "Thank them for their efforts, but make sure we pay them in full."
I recall once at Grissom Air Force Base, Ind., as the door to our C-12 transport closed for the trip home, one member of our traveling staff discovered that he neglected to pay for dinner the previous night. He told the general that he would send them a letter with a check to cover the costs. The next thing I knew, the co-pilot was dropping the side door as 1 collected the money and ran it to the hosting commander, who was standing sharply on the tarmac waiting for us to depart.
The general insisted that we all pay our own way. It was a point I never forgot, and throughout my Air Force career, I stuck to his example. Ethics would never be an issue with General Sharp.
Besides being dedicated to the uniform and what it represented, the general was devoted to his family. A man of immense faith and love of family, the general was, once again, an unknowing mentor to me, for 1 truly admired his life priorities and his obvious adherence to principles and common sense.
I remember one unit visit to a 10th Air Force location where we were to have an icebreaker with the commander's staff and our traveling contingent on the first night. The rumor was out that the general did not drink, and, therefore, he did not tolerate those who did. This was only half true; he didn't drink.
Our party was waiting in the Officers Club dining room, but there were no host staff members in sight. Finally, nearly 15 minutes after our designated rendezvous lime, 1 went off to the back bar to see if I could use a phone. To my surprise, I ran into the commander and his staff, drinks in hand. The commander said they were just finishing up and would be joining us shortly.
"Got to get a drink down the hatch before we go drink-less for the next two hours or so." he said.
To which I replied, "Why was that?'"
"Because the ole man (military jargon) didn't want us to drink," he said.
I replied with the certainty of a priest that the general didn't drink, but it was perfectly OK if they did. To see the looks on their faces, you would have thought the IRS had just given them a year's reprieve on paying their taxes!
"One more drink lads, and bring it with you. ... it's time to eat with the general," the commander said.
The general had a dry sense of humor, and he showed it that night. A waitress asked him what he wanted to drink, and he said, "Adam's Ale." As everyone pondered what he was talking about, he continued. "Yes, Adam's Ale. The refreshing drink that's been around since Adam and Eve. I'll have water."
A vice commander, I soon learned, regardless of rank, never took credit for actions that reflected well on him. Credits and praises were always deferred to the commander and to the command. However, Reservists knew when if was appropriate to acknowledge talent, sacrifice and all that General Sharp had done to enhance the careers and recognition initiatives of the Air Force Reserve enlisted corps. In 1981, the general was inducted into the prestigious Order of the Sword, becoming the Air Force Reserve's fifth recipient of the enlisted corps honor.
General Sharp handled his final assignment in uniform with ease, for he was that type of gentleman who always gave credit to the troops, his family and his God before allowing someone to acknowledge him personally. This was a great life lesson that I came to emulate throughout the course of my career and. more importantly, my life. Humility, it's a great gift that keeps on giving.
(General Sharp makes his retirement home in South Jordan, Utah.)
GENERAL. SHARP WANTED TO TAKE THE HEADQUARTERS TO THE FIELD ... LITERALLY.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2007|
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