Heritage, Image and Identity: The Evolution of USAF Leadership
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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Since its designation as a separate service on 18 September 1947, the USAF has been led by pilots as reflected in its top position - the Chief of Staff of the Air Force CSAF. The paper characterizes basic foundations of USAF leadership by the common thread of air-centric heritage, image and identity, and defines four USAF Leadership Watersheds since the creation of the independent USAF. Although the CSAF has always been a pilot, USAF leadership has progressed as exemplified by the type of pilot occupying the CSAF seat.3 This paper examines the historical evolution of USAF leadership since its beginnings as the Army Air Corps to todays USAF. Prior to 2009, USAF leadership history consisted of two Watersheds that were epitomized by bomber pilot elitism and fighter pilot egoism. An in-depth analysis will dissect these eras of USAF leadership and demonstrate commonalities that explain the selection of the first non-fighter pilot CSAF in 26 years, which marks the beginning of the 3rd Watershed in USAF leadership evolution. A concluding synthesis provides recommendations on how the USAF can position itself for future leadership success throughout this 3rd Watershed and into a 4th Watershed in tomorrows increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous VUCA 21st century environment.