16th Air Force hosts Senior Leadership Summit, focuses on leading through change

  • Published
  • By Matthew McGovern
Sixteenth Air Force hosted the 2024 Senior Leader Summit April 30 to May 1, with change on the horizon and a theme to see it through: Connected, Resilient, Empowered. 
 
The summit provided military and civilian leadership guidance to navigate through the change process once the Department of the Air Force’s organizational decisions are finalized. 
 
“The conversation about the future structure of the cyber and ISR enterprise is still very active,” said Kennedy.
 
“Once we have settled on the final structure, commanders and senior enlisted leaders, have to provide a vision on where we are headed and the why, consistently and often” added Kennedy.
 
Kennedy further stressed ways to prepare for the change to meet information warfare strategic challenges.
 
“We can provide intent and the vision, but a framework is also needed to help our team structure their thinking, problem solving and coordination which in turn helps them capture value.”
 
Keynote speakers’ personal insights and transformation experience generated summit conversations. Gen. (Ret) David Goldfein, former Air Force Chief of Staff, emphasized the importance of communication through the change process. 
 
“It really is important to take the time as leaders across 16th Air Force to have those conversations with small groups of Airmen, to explain to them the ‘why’ behind this,” said Goldfein. “This is going to affect their lives; any major re-organization does. The over-all purpose of the re-organization is the shift towards great power competition, and it’s the right focus.” 
 
Organizational changes are necessary as part of the Air Force’s efforts to deter and, if needed, prevail in an era of Great Power Competition.
 
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, resiliency expert and Brigham Young University professor of psychology and neuroscience, offered her expertise to better equip leaders of upcoming challenges.
 
As with any organizational change, “we need to think about the policies that might be employed, we need to think about how it may impact us socially; are these policies fostering social connection or becoming barriers to connection?” she asked.
 
Holt-Lunstad explained how timed spent virtually, with less face-to face exchanges, could obstruct connections critical to mission success. 
 
Furthering Holt-Lundstad’s point, Lt. Col. Melissa McLain, Air Force Academy Institute for Future Conflicts, and five Air Force Academy cadets briefed the audience on how the adversary uses emotionally charged social media posts to push narratives with the goal of confusing young Airmen.
 
McLain and the cadets stressed the importance of educating Airmen on social media cognitive security dangers during the transitional period.
 
“Service members nowadays are extremely technological, they use tech for just about everything from school, work, entertainment, how they make friends on social media and how they get their news,” said McClain. “But that leads us into the problem as it stands today, our adversaries are trying to impact and integrate narratives with our Airmen to influence their opinions and their decision making processes on the day-to-day.”
 
Kennedy closed the summit by reminding senior leaders to think deliberately on how best to communicate with Airmen. He also prompted leadership to empower their team, from young Airmen up the chain, to stay on mission and continue the day-to-day fight.    
 
“We are all executing the mission today,” he said. “We have Airmen who are on the net, whether it’s in the ISR enterprise or cyber enterprise, executing operations today. We have Airmen flying aircraft executing operations today.” 
 
“Wing structures may change but your leadership roles are not going to change,” said Kennedy. “We know the story is changing, but we get to write the next chapter together.”
 
Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber), headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, focuses on information warfare in the modern age.  Information Warfare requires integrating: Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance; Cyber Warfare; Electromagnetic Warfare; Weather; Public Affairs; and Information Operations capabilities. Sixteenth Air Force ensures that our Air Force and Nation are fast, resilient, and fully integrated in competition, crisis, and conflict by incorporating Information Warfare at operational and tactical levels, capitalizing on the value of information by leading the charge for uniquely-21st century challenges in the highly dynamic, seamless, and global information domain.