James: Perfection is and always will be the standard
By Chris Calkins and Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney, 45th SW Public Affairs
/ Published February 19, 2009
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, 14th Air Force commander, made his first tour of Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday since assuming command just a few months ago. He wasn't surprised by what he saw.
General James, who previously served as a squadron commander and deputy group commander at the 45th Space Wing from September 1993 to January 1996, said while the facilities have changed, the mission - and the work ethic - hasn't.
"Being in the launch business means one thing and one thing only: perfection is the standard... it always was and always will be," said General James. "We can do one million things right when we get ready to do a launch, but it only takes one small mistake to make it unsuccessful," he said.
"And the people here at the 45th Space Wing get that whole concept as well as anyone, anywhere in the space business. The people we talked with today at Patrick and at the Cape were like I remembered them to be. They are very good at what they do and excited to be doing it," he said.
The general's wife, Susan, also took time Tuesday morning to visit the Airman & Family Readiness Center, the Child Development Center, and had an interactive tour of the 45th Medical Group's Satellite Pharmacy.
Like her husband, she liked what she saw.
She was especially surprised - and happy - with the news of the current construction of a brand-new center which is expected to be open within a few months.
"I'm impressed with the fact that so much of this is going on when you think of the financial aspects. They're doing a great job of doing more with less," she said.
General James also talked about companies like Space Florida and Space X, and what these commercial enterprises can bring to the table.
"One of the great things we've been trying to do for decades is drive down the cost of launch, and I think these commercial entities will help us do that. Because of that we have an opportunity and frankly an obligation on both the Eastern Range and Western Range to support those capabilities," he said.
"The more launch providers we have, the better it is for our nation."
Lt. Col. John Wagner, 45th Launch Support Squadron commander, served at the Cape with then Lt. Col. James, when the general commanded the 45th Spacecraft Operations Squadron in 1993-94.
"I was a Lieutenant at the time, and I learned much from his technical focus on mission success - right here at the Cape," said Colonel Wagner.
The colonel also said General James was also very involved with the GPS program, and was even on the source selection team in the late 1980s for GPS IIR.
"My GPS team was able to show him the last GPS IIR vehicle shipped from the factory, and we all discussed how GPS has transformed our military and way of life since then. It was a great reminder of the importance of our mission," he said.
The general also noted the many challenges of the aging infrastructure in all launch wings, and the challenge of bringing on new systems while operating old ones. He said one of the best solutions is to go to the folks in the know.
"The people on the ground here are the ones who see that mission and they know how the mission can be done differently or be done better. So they have the good ideas that will take us five years, 10 years, 15 years into the future. Let's listen to what they have to say and take the right action. We're only as successful as our last launch."
Following his tour, the general took a few minutes for an interview and was asked what advice he would give young Airmen in today's Air Force to help them succeed.
"Well," he said with a broad grin, "I'd give them the same advice someone gave me many years ago. Know your job and do it to the very best of your ability every single day. Seek a mentor, and listen to what they have to say," he said.
"And finally, maintain a good attitude and constantly seek challenges. That's the way you get - and stay - ahead."
"Being in the Air Force is a great way of life. You're making a difference every day," he said emphatically, "especially here at the 45th Space Wing."
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Bolton, Jr., 45th Space Wing commander, said General James's comments only served to prove what he has thought - and said - since he took command of the wing last October.
"Every single day I tell you how appreciated and valued you are, and it's obvious General James - someone who knows our mission very well - feels exactly the same way I do," he said.