Q&A with the new 514th Air Mobility Wing vice commander

  • Published
  • By by Christian DeLuca
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
The Freedom Wing welcomed Col. Adrian Byers as the new 514th Air Mobility Wing vice commander July 1. Byers, who put on his colonel wings on July 13 during a promotion ceremony here, comes to the wing with an extensive amount of experience that includes, time with tanker and refueling aircraft, a deployment to Afghanistan, as well as time in the Pentagon.

Q: When did you join the Air Force and why?

A: I started in the Reserve back in 1995 after I graduated from Delaware University. I joined with the 326th Airlift Squadron at Dover Air Force Base and I was flying with them right up to 2002. I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I was a six year-old kid. A lot of people don’t realize you can go straight into the Reserve and fly. I lucked out because my dad was a career flight engineer with the C-5s, so he knew that this was an avenue of approach. I grew up in Dover and ran around those aircraft as a kid. So I feel like I was continuing the tradition, with him being an engineer and me going into pilot training.

Q: What has been your favorite duty so far?

A: It’s kind of hard to say because there were a few jobs I really enjoyed. Being the squadron commander was definitely one I really enjoyed. It’s an opportunity to touch everybody’s lives. You have a big impact and it’s up to you to set the standard that the Airmen look towards.

Also, my first stint at the Pentagon was a great time. I was in the Joint Staff. People always talk about being a part of something that is greater than themselves. I could understand that working there. I would watch the Sunday morning news shows and every once and a while they would talk about something I had been a part of. Someone from the department would be talking about how we were working such and such or how we were trying to figure out how to go forward on a foreign policy issue, and I would be like wow, we kind of helped shape that.

And there was my deployment to Afghanistan. I was there for almost eight months, doing things I never thought I was going to do. I was the chief of safety for the theater and was running all around Afghanistan. That was another job I really enjoyed. There were times, when I was there, that were a different story. But looking back, and looking at all the things we did and the places we went, it was an amazing time. Afghanistan has some beautiful areas, some beautiful scenery. With all that was going on, sometimes you had to take a step back and just say ‘this is really a beautiful country.’

Q: What was one of the more difficult times in your career and how did you get through it?

A: They say the best times can go along with the worst times. Some of those same jobs had their ups and downs. One of the worst things I had to do was to take a stripe from an Airman. To have to recommend to the group commander that an individual needs to lose their stripe, you really realize the impact you have, and you have to make that decision knowing that this individual is going to lose money, he’s going to lose some credibility, it’s not the easiest thing to do.

While I was in Afghanistan, I lost a friend to an IED attack. That hit pretty hard. I use to get up in the morning and run with this individual and for him to make the ultimate sacrifice. That was a tough time. You realize that there are places, like Afghanistan, that are beautiful places. But on the flip side, there are people there trying to kill you.

To cope with those situations I always had good mentors and peers to lean on. As a commander, I was always able to turn to my staff. I could say, I’m taking this guy’s stripes because of these reasons. They would, well this is what the regulations clearly state. You’re doing the right thing. I always took counsel from my superintendent. I look to my senior non-commissioned officers as my pillars.
When I lost my friend in Afghanistan, I had similar folks to lean on. You find your coping mechanisms there.

Q: What is your leadership philosophy?

A: When I went to Command College they asked me that question, and when I went to the Air War College they asked me that same question. I always thought it was kind of funny because you have to do a couple things first before you get to that question. You have to define what leadership is, and there didn’t seem to be a clear definition. So I said, my leadership was going to be based off of having empathy and knowing and understanding what my Airmen need to have to succeed and to help them do what they need to do. Not just with my Airmen, but with my peers as well, to work and solve problems together.

So I’d say my philosophy is to be 100 percent open, and 100 percent honest. I’ll put a lot of trust and confidence in you, and I expect you to do your job. At the same time, if you’re trying to get a job done and you find yourself up against a brick wall, I want you to come to me. You have to find those happy mediums.

Q: What do you think the wing should focus on to be mission ready?

A: Their people. Their strengths and weaknesses, and what they can do. They say ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link.’ I’ve never liked that cliché. People are not pieces of metal. The wing needs to make sure it’s people are properly trained, equipped and ready to fight, and it’s our job as commanders to make sure they have what they need to do that.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

A: I’m very excited to be here. I talked with Col. Cole this morning (305th Air Mobility Wing commander) and he said this is the oldest active duty and Reserve partnership and as a history guy I thought that was really interesting. I’m really excited to be a part of the heritage that you have. And there’s more history to be made here, especially as we sunset the KC-10 and bring the KC-46 online. So I’m looking forward to helping Col. Pavey run the wing and keep us as effective as we can be and I’m really looking forward to it.