JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” Retired U. S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold reiterated this belief during his remarks at the Twenty-Fifth Air Force Banquet celebrating ‘70 Years in the Fight” Sept. 29, 2018.
Heithold was commander of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency from 2009 to 2011. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1974 and was commissioned in 1981 as a distinguished graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Arkansas.
Heithold is a master navigator with more than 3,400 flying hours in the AC-130H/U, MC-130P and C-130E aircraft, and retired in July with 44 years of service to his country.
There are 10 things that define extraordinary people, Heithold said in his remarks, noting that many of those in the attendance met the criteria.
“Many of you in here have these qualities that make you stand out as an extraordinary citizen of the United States. First, and foremost, you stepped into the extraordinary box called the United States Air Force,” he said.
He discussed many of his ten points in detail, to include the importance of responding to people appropriately.
“When somebody says ‘Thank you,’ you say ‘You’re welcome,” he said. “Little things matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
Heithold also emphasized that teamwork is essential to being extraordinary.
“None of us is as smart as all of us,” he said, “If you want to go fast, go low; if you want to go far, go together.”
Caring about others is another trait Heithold feels is an important part of being extraordinary.
“Extraordinary people understand that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said. “Extraordinary people are authentic, compassionate, humble, and they are sincere. Extraordinary people set the bar high and work to jump it.”
Continuing his list, the general stated it is important to make many friends in life.
“Make as many friends as possible and never forget that your success depends on others,” said Heithold.
“How do I know these 10 things,” Heithold asked attendees. “Because I worked with a bunch of extraordinary people and recognize what qualities those people have, and I found these qualities in all of them. I find these qualities in the vast majority of you out there. (The Airmen) that I ran with in the intelligence community display these qualities. You will find that, if you keep your eyes open, many of our Airmen today display these qualities.”
Continuing his remarks, Heithold asked the Airmen from each iteration of the organization to stand and be recognized while music reflecting their era was played.
The first group he recognized were the Airmen of U.S. Air Force Security Service, 1948 to 1979, commenting on the service’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam.
“We had intel folks there on the ground in the Vietnam War before any other U.S. involvement,” he said.
The next group to be recognized was Electronic Security Command, 1979 to 1991.
“It was a pretty significant period of our time when the Soviet Union was threatening us and electronic warfare came to light,” he said.
Air Force Intelligence Command, the agency’s name from 1991 to 1993, was the next group of Airmen asked to stand. The numbers were fewer than previous groups, and the focus of the command was terrorism, Heithold said
From 1993 to 2007, the organization was known as the Air Intelligence Agency and emphasized information operations.
“This was a period of time where we became leaders in information operations,” the general said. “We stood up the Information Operations Warfare Center here when Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom took place. And, the Global War on Terrorism was in full burner.”
“On our fifth name change, we became the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, from 2007 to 2014,” the agency’s former commander said. This was a period of incredible growth for the agency and Distributed Common Ground Systems.
The last group Heithold recognized were the Airmen of Twenty-Fifth Air Force, a renaming that brought in multiple wings and additional growth, from 16,000 to 29,000 Airmen strong.
Heithold proclaimed there is no organization like it in the world, contributing to support the fight in the way Twenty-Fifth Air Force has and continues to.
“The uniforms changed… the organizational names changed, the designations changed, the mission changed, but I will tell you, one thing stayed constant,” Heithold said. “That is the extraordinary people who served and continue to serve in our intelligence enterprise and the United States Air Force.”