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Air Force Senior Leaders Share Lessons Learned from Desert Storm

  • Maj. Gen. Vincent Mancuso, the mobilization assistant to the Air Force chief of staff, speaks to Air Force ROTC Detachment 330 cadets at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., Feb. 18, 2016. (Photo: Zach Anderson)
    Maj. Gen. Vincent Mancuso, the mobilization assistant to the Air Force chief of staff, speaks to Air Force ROTC Detachment 330 cadets at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., Feb. 18, 2016. (Photo: Zach Anderson)
  • Brig. Gen. Craig La Fave visits with Air Force ROTC Detachment 130 cadets at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo: Zach Anderson)
    Brig. Gen. Craig La Fave visits with Air Force ROTC Detachment 130 cadets at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo: Zach Anderson)

WASHINGTON — During recent visits to Howard University and the University of Maryland, two Air Force senior leaders shared memories and lessons learned from Operation Desert Storm with more than 160 Washington, D.C., area Air Force ROTC cadets as part of the Air Force’s focus on the 25th anniversary of the conflict.

Brig. Gen. Craig La Fave, the special assistant to the chief of the Air Force Reserve and military deputy to the total force continuum, deputy chief of staff strategic plans and programs, visited AFROTC Detachment 130 cadets at Howard University Feb. 10. La Fave flew C-141 Starlifters during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, taking part in the massive airlift effort that made the successful buildup and execution of the war effort possible.

During his time with the cadets, La Fave shared personal stories and discussed how the Gulf War shaped the way airpower is used today, as well as how it changed the tactics used by our enemies.

“Operation Desert Storm was a great example of what an overwhelming Air Force can do,” La Fave said. “Today, our enemies have learned from that and they know they cannot challenge us out in the open. We may never see that type of warfare again. Our enemies now try to fight us from within cities and through cyber warfare. And we have to be capable in both types of warfare.”

Maj. Gen. Vincent Mancuso, the mobilization assistant to the Air Force chief of staff, spoke to AFROTC Detachment 330 cadets at the University of Maryland Feb. 18. Mancuso flew F-4 Phantom “Wild Weasel” aircraft throughout Desert Storm. He spoke to the cadets about personal leadership lessons he learned as a young pilot during the conflict and how those lessons are applicable to the cadets as they begin their Air Force careers as officers.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to help shape our next generation of Airmen,” Mancuso said. “They are hungry to understand what they will face when they get into the active Air Force. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to share with them, to give them that understanding and share some wisdom that might make their own journey a little better. I find that to be particularly valuable.”

Cadets said the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from Desert Storm veterans was an invaluable experience.

“We read about these wars in the history books, but to hear from someone who has that firsthand experience and can tell us what they did and why things happened really helps us to apply the lessons learned,” said Cadet Maj. Daniela Carchedi, who is assigned to AFROTC Detachment 130. “We are able to draw from that to prepare us for what we will be facing in the future. The lessons we learn from these leaders who came before us are extremely valuable.”

Lt. Col. Gardner Joyner, the AFROTC Detachment 130 commander, said the importance of the interactions between Air Force senior leaders and the cadets cannot be measured.

“To have someone from the Pentagon here, it really reinforces the lessons we are trying to impart on them,” Joyner said. “To have the general here to discuss the lessons learned from Desert Storm helps the cadets to understand why we do what we do.”

Imparting knowledge gleaned from Desert Storm was rewarding for the Air Force senior leaders as well.

“This is really full circle for me,” La Fave said. “I started as an AFROTC cadet and now I have the opportunity to come back 30 years later and speak to a detachment and tell my story and the Air Force story and discuss how effective we were and what we learned through Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It was special to see these sharp, young cadets ready to go at the front end of their careers.

“I hope my story can help to shape their future. They have a great future in the Air Force.”

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