Good Evening ALS class 10-5. Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to serve as your class senior mentor.
This is the first time I’ve ever been a “guest speaker” for any event. So, naturally, I’m a little nervous. I keep expecting Kanye West to jump on the stage and say “yo, Sergeant Malby, I’m going to let you finish but Chief Wilk had the greatest ALS speech of all time!”.
Class, being your mentor has been both a great honor and great fun. It’s not a duty that I took lightly. I was reminded of the importance of this moment when I attended a CMSgt orientation in January. The AFSOC CCM asked everybody in the room about their goals upon assuming the CMSgt rank. One individual stood up and said that his dream was to give a speech at an ALS graduation. I’m very cognizant of the fact that right here, right now, I’m living somebody’s dream. The fact that I look a little bit like Freddy Krueger is just a coincidence.
Well, class, you’ve graduated…so, what now? You have survived four weeks of main points, summative examinations and “bring it on back”. It’s time to return to AF proper and apply this knowledge and to become AF Leaders of the 21st century. You see, I developed many of my leadership skills in the 20th century, which is something you managed to helpfully remind me of several times during the course. For instance, when I pointed out that the #1 song during my basic training was “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, Amn Houde cheerfully responded with “I was 5”. Thanks for that, Amn Houde.
Suffice it to say, the challenges of being an AF leader in the 21st century will extend well beyond pop music.
20th century AF Leaders were not required to have a global vision in the world, you are. For most of the last 30 years, all we needed to know was that “they” were the bad guys and to point the weapons that way. The world doesn’t work like that, anymore. War doesn’t work like that, anymore. You need to understand concepts like counterinsurgency. You need to understand how building a well can be as effective for our national security as launching a sortie. “Who cares what they think?” We care what they think. Because when we understand how they think, that might make the difference between them turning in a terrorist as opposed to helping them plant the IED. You’ll need to become familiar with different cultures and perhaps even learn another language or two. Why you? Because we need you to, that’s why.
20th century AF Leaders did not place as much emphasis on fitness as you do. You understand that your belly is not supposed to be a coaster for your coffee cup. In the past, we could get away with being the smart, technical service and seeing the gym as that building we passed on the way to Burger King. We cannot afford to do that, anymore. We cannot afford to let our sister services and coalition partners down because “we’re the Air Force and we just don’t do exercise”. I know from personal experience that class 10-5 does not have this problem. I had a great time participating in the Warrior Run, a 3.5 mile trek through the mountains on the east side. The class performed admirably and most importantly, promised to tell everybody that the whimpering sound was a wounded animal and definitely not SMSgt Malby. Thanks for that.
20th century AF leaders did not necessarily need to be “Battle ready”. Well, at least the majority of the enlisted leaders, didn’t. That was the joke, wasn’t it? “We are the Air Force enlisted and we’re smart – we send our officers to do the fighting”. That joke is not so funny anymore, is it? We’ve already buried several of our finest Airmen who perished while engaging in ground combat…something the Air Force allegedly “doesn’t do”. You know better, don’t you? Cunningham, Chapman, Sather, Jacobson and countless others…you know the names. You know the dangers involved when the Air Force needs you to go into the AOR. You know how important it is to be properly trained in ground combat tactics. Make sure that you and your Airmen get that training and apply it when the situation arises. This game is for keeps. Not only do you have to worry about yourself but now or very soon you will have young Airmen who look to you for guidance. Maybe you didn’t sign up for the Air Force to be “GI Joe”. But, guess what? Your Airmen is scared and he or she needs a real American hero. Tag, you’re it.
20th Century Air Force Leaders didn’t need to be aware of the cyber threat. Well, except for those comm-computer guys. Bunch of freaks, let me tell you. You might not think a few keystrokes can cause as much damage as a bomb until you watch half of the country’s power grid go black or the water stops running. The threat is real and there are lots of people around the world who are very good at it. Not all of them live in America. Some of them hate America. The Air Force needs you to counter this threat, whether it is by not opening dangerous e-mail or infiltrating a jihadist chat room. Don’t make the mistake of thinking our enemies are simple folks like the Geico Cavemen who don’t understand technology. We made that mistake before. We paid for it. We are still paying for it. Cyber is one of the Air Force’s primary battle fronts and, right now, the Vegas oddsmakers would classify this fight as a “pick ‘em”. That’s why we need you, the Air Force leaders of the 21st century, to change the odds.
I now offer the two greatest words in speechmaking history…in conclusion…I have shown you, class 10-5, several of the challenges you will face as Air Force leaders of the 21st century. Global vision, fitness, battle readiness and cyber are just a few of the obstacles that will confront you over the next several years. Why you? Why not you? I watched you. I know you can do it. Class 10-5, you are ready. I believe in you. The Air Force believes in you. All we need is for you to believe in you and we will be set for success.
Over the last month, I have had the pleasure of seeing the 14 men and women of ALS class 10-5 engage on the issues that the Air Force faces today. They have approached these challenges in a thoughtful, rational and determined manner. They have made me proud to serve and all of you in the audience should be proud of them, as well. I look forward to the future as I grow older and watch members of class 10-5 progress through their AF careers. I will eagerly await each milestone: SSgt, NCO Academy, Senior NCO, Chief Master Sergeant and ultimately, watching them give their first ALS graduation speeches…where, they will be interrupted by Kanye West who will tell them that SMSgt Malby gave the greatest ALS speech of all time! Thank you very much and congratulations to class 10-5.
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