WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – For the past seven and a half years he’s led the organization charged with supporting rapid global mobility and sustainment for America’s warfighters and allies. During this time he guided the organization through a restructure which saw it expand from one location to four locations across the country. Some of the high profile programs he’s responsible for include the T-X program and until recently the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program. His teams have consistently performed well and lead innovative efforts to improve efficiency and save the Air Force money.
After a 35-year Air Force career, both as an active-duty member and civilian, Kevin Buckley, Program Executive Officer for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Mobility Directorate, will step down from his position in February.
During a recent interview, Buckley reflected on his time as PEO for Mobility.
Q: How has the Mobility portfolio changed over the years you’ve worked here?
A: It has changed quite a bit. Before the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center stood up in 2012, I only had responsibility for organizations here at Wright-Patterson. Then, the directorate was quite small, but when we stood up AFLCMC, not only was I given responsibility for mobility offices at Robins, Tinker and Hill, but I was also given responsibility for all of the training aircraft. Throw in the fact that over that same period, foreign military sales has absolutely exploded. So we are pretty big now, have a lot going on, much more than when I first started in 2010.
Q: What do you love about your job?
A: That’s an easy one. It’s the people, and that answer works on many levels. First of all it’s the people that are manning the program offices and solving the problems and making our customers happy day-after-day. These people are fantastic. Working with them is a pleasure. Having been here as long as I’ve been here, I can see folks who were junior mid-level people in my organization develop the skills and were given the opportunities and rose to the challenge, and are now senior leaders in other organizations. It’s so encouraging to see that. The other part of the job I love is working with my peers. The other PEOs in the Air Force. As you can imagine, over this past seven and a half years, the people in the PEO positions have rotated a lot. The thing is though, the Air Force is amazing, we lose good people to retirement or other assignments and the Air Force just comes up with great people to take their place. You hate to see these people leave, but then you see people just as talented if not more talented take their place afterwards. I don’t know how the Air Force does it, but it’s fantastic and a credit to the Air Force.
Q: What are some of the challenges the directorate has faced?
A: There are programmatic challenges. Every program has its challenges, every weapons system has its challenges. But the challenges that we really faced which I was really glad we could make progress overcoming is the standup of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
There’s no denying it, the stand up of AFLCMC has been a great success. But when you look at the details, in order to make an organization like that successful you really have to address and resolve some culture issues. Before, we were just at Wright-Patt, and now we are spread out in so many other locations. How do you make other of those people feel together as a team? Work together as a team, have the same expectations, the same level of performance, standardized duties. That has been a really challenge. I wouldn’t say that we’ve solved them, but we’ve come a long way. We are a lot better than we use to be. It takes years to change culture.
Q: Can you talk about some of the Mobility Directorate’s success and impact it has had on the Air Force?
A: In the seven years I’ve been here, we’ve delivered over 2,000 new or modified aircraft back to our customers worldwide. Those things don’t happen by themselves. And our acquisition system isn’t designed to make things easy. It’s designed to optimize low cost and schedule. Sometimes there’s friction in it that we have to overcome. My teams do a great job making their foreign military sales customers and Air Mobility Command and Air Education and Training Command customers happy.
Q: What’s your leadership philosophy?
A: When you are in a directorate of approximately 1,800 people and you have hundreds of programs, I’m not going to get down in the weeds of each one. The real secret to making this thing work is finding the right people for the right job, give them the resources that they need and then empower them to do it.
Q: What will you miss most?
A: The people. I’ve made some many friends in my 35 years here in the air force acquisition business. Twenty-seven and a half as a military guy and seven and a half as a civilian. I’m going to miss interacting with them and seeing them every day.
Q: What can you say about T-X?
A: Nothing. I would love to chat about T-X. I think when the time comes and the decision is made and we are able to talk about it, folks in the Air Force are going to be thrilled.
Q: What are your future plans? Do you plan to stay in the local area?
A: I would like to. But that depends on what I choose to do next. I’m going to work again. If I can find the right position here in Dayton absolutely I would stay here. We have lots of friends here, spent so much time here, we have really strong roots here.
Q: You’re from Philadelphia right?
A: Yes I am, ‘Fly Eagles Fly!’
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: I just want to say thanks to everybody here in the Life Cycle Management Center. I worked with so many of them, both inside my directorate and out. It’s fantastic people that make a difference. Think about it, jobs by their very nature are not designed to be pleasurable. If they were, they wouldn’t be paying us. So why do we come in. it’s not the pay. We come in because we like the people that we are doing things with. I’m going to miss that.