WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
On Oct. 2, his first official day commanding the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), Lt. Gen. John Thompson said he awoke feeling, as his teenage daughter would say, "awesome, epic, amazing."
"There's no greater feeling than knowing I am coming to work to do something really important for our nation, with a really committed and professional team ... the best team in the business," Thompson said. "I keep pinching myself and asking, 'How did this happen to me?'"
Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), passed the AFLCMC flag to Thompson in a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 26. He now leads the single center responsible for total life cycle management covering nearly all aircraft, engines, munitions and electronic systems.
Thompson Force in 1984 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has served in a variety of scientific, acquisition and logistics-oriented capacities, including staff assignments at Air Force Systems Command, AFMC and in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
He has been awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters and a host of other awards. and Outlining priorities goals
Thompson has been a part of the AFLCMC team for the past two-plus years, most notably as the Air Force Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Tankers, Tanker Directorate.
"The bottom line is I've watched very carefully how Lt. Gen. Moore (previous AFLCMC commander), over the past two years, put us on a path to success and how the workforce responded to that," Thompson said.
"My firm belief is that we're on the right path and that my job is to keep us on that path while navigating some of the 'potholes' that we will find along the way, and then maybe putting our feet collectively on the accelerator to go a little faster."
The general said AFLCMC's mission, guiding principles and objectives will not change despite the change in leadership.
"Our mission will not change -- we will continue to acquire and support war-winning capabilities in line with our guiding principles of unity of purpose, speed with discipline, and trust and confidence. We will continue to aggressively pursue the strategic objectives we have within the center; everything from starting high-confidence programs to ensuring safe environments for the workforce. We're going to stay on the same path," Thompson assured.
"Having said that, in today's economic, budgetary and geopolitical environment, with the operations that we have ongoing around the world, we have no choice but to get better," the general noted. "But we will get better within the framework of the existing mission, guiding principles and objectives."
Thompson also commented that he would like to see more emphasis going forward on continuous improvement and standardization.
"I've been very pleased with what I've seen over the last two years in those areas and I think we can do more for the workforce," the general said. "In that same light, we have to be laser-focused on producing more effective and more affordable weapons systems for our warfighting brethren and perhaps more efficient personnel processes so we can do hiring and personnel actions more easily."
Consistency is key
With regard to AFMC's recent transition to a five-center construct, Thompson noted that it was the command's first major restructure in the last 20 years.
"[The transition to a five-center construct] really isn't a job that can be accomplished in two years or four years or even six years," Thompson said. "Some people will tell you that it's a generational kind of a change. The key to generational kinds of change is to be consistent.
"If I had to summarize, I really, really want to maintain the consistency that General Moore established and add the John Thompson aspect of it in a gradual and disciplined manner," he said. philosophy Leadership
Thompson describes his leadership style as one of collaboration.
"I really intend to reach out -- to the maximum extent -- to my fellow center commanders within AFMC and see what we can do collectively on everything from organic sustainment to building upon the great Air Force Simulation and Analysis Facility work that we've done (with Air Force Research Laboratory) over the last several years."
As the former PEO for Strategic Systems and Deputy PEO for the Joint Strike Fighter, Thompson said his new position is a great spot to be interacting with the Nuclear Weapons Center and the Air Force Test Center. "None of our systems work without proper and complete testing," he said. Plus General Bunch (Maj. Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., Air Force Test Center commander) and I are classmates from the Air Force Academy. I'm going to really enjoy working with him again on a much more direct basis."
Thompson considers every single person within AFLCMC to be "critical members of the team that delivers capabilities to our nation's warfighters. Right now, across the globe, U.S. Air Forces, sister air forces and partner air forces are engaged with enemy forces. They are rescuing the helpless, keeping vigilant watch 24/7, feeding the hungry and defending freedom, around the world. All of those Airmen out there are absolutely depending upon weapons systems that were developed, contracted for, and supported day-in-and-day-out by people within AFLCMC.
"If I had a message to give, I'd say thank you for what you do. You don't become the greatest air force on the planet without the greatest people on the planet building the systems that that force uses. With everybody doing their job today as part of this team, we are able to build these incredible systems that make us the dominant force for good on the planet, as it relates to air power," Thompson said.
About the general
Thompson's lighthearted side has led some to refer to him as the "funny general," and Thompson said he is somewhat of a jokester. His staff also will soon discover that he likes pranks. "Humor is important to me," he said.
Thompson is quick to take issue with the "two Rs" when it comes to talking about leisure time and hobbies.
"I always poke fun at resumes where people say their hobbies are reading and running," he said. "Those are lifestyle choices, not necessarily hobbies. But in reality, during my leisure time I'm either reading or running, so I'm just as guilty as the people I tease."
He plays golf occasionally and, having grown up in Pittsburgh, is a big fan of the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. He also admits to being somewhat of a TV "junkie." He loves sitcoms, dramas, reality and horror shows.
A little about his family
Thompson calls his family a typical Air Force family, with his wife, Ruth Ann, the bedrock of their home. Two of his three children are in college, and the family has undergone permanent change of station moves 13 times in 30 years. Their dog -- a rescued German short-haired pointer named Britta -- serves as the family's "comic relief," he said.
With his new assignment the fourth he's had at Wright-Patterson AFB, the general is no stranger to the Dayton community.
"I love Dayton," Thompson said. "The communities here are top-notch on how they treat military families, and not just those in uniform but those of everyone who works on base."
A final comment
One of his favorite sayings -- his personal mantra, he says -- is, "When things are at their worst, you be at your best."
"From the standpoint of the workforce here, I know there are going to be times during my tenure that things will be at their worst. We'll have budgetary impacts. We'll have capabilities we need to deliver to our warfighters faster than is humanly possible. I would just ask that when things get their worst, that the workforce remains their best. I am confident they will. I sure will try. There are going to be bumps in the road, but we are going to get through them," Thompson said.