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Speech – "Discipline, Mission, and Camaraderie"

"Discipline, Mission, and Camaraderie"
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
October 28, 2014

FAA Military Recognition

Thank you, Carrolyn [Bostick].  It’s great to be here.  As we look ahead to Veterans Day, it’s really a time to reflect.  There is, as we all know, a segment in our American society that knows a lot about the meaning of courage … a lot about the meaning of service.  And that’s something that we can all take a cue from and that group is of course our military veterans.  They are the reason we are here today. 

There was a study that looked at what motivates people in military combat.  The researchers talked to service members in the United States Marines Corps, the French Foreign Legion and the British Commandos.  They found three common threads.

The first was that all of them had an important sense of discipline.  They recognized that it’s something that they do because it is their job.

The second thing was there was an appreciation for the history and the values that were embodied in the regiment.  People were highly motivated to honor the great tradition of that regiment. 

While these were important, they were not the most important things that the researchers found.  The most important factor that contributed to their absolute willingness to put themselves into harm’s way was love for fellow service members.  They talked about a bond between a team that was really unbreakable.  One put it this way in an interview, “You work with them, and you soon realize your survival depends on one another.”

Whether it be military combat, or anything else, the lesson is clear.  We can only be successful if we count on one another. 

That’s a spirit I’m proud to say we have here at the FAA.  And no doubt, it’s a spirit infused with the quiet, but powerful energy of our military veterans. 

We’re fortunate to have almost 15,000 veterans here at the FAA.  That’s about a third of our workforce. 

Since 2011, one third of our newly-hired air traffic controllers … and one half of our newly-hired aviation safety inspectors have been veterans.   

When our veterans talk about their military experience and how it has shaped their career at the FAA, what do you think they say are the three factors that have contributed to it?  It won’t surprise you.

The military gave them a sense of discipline … and a sense of duty.

The military gave them a history to live up to … and a sense of mission and pride in serving the United States government.  

And the military gave them a sense of camaraderie. 

Very similar to what the researchers found when they talked to these three distinct services.

We’re fortunate that so many of our veterans have brought these values and principles here to support the FAA’s mission to maintain the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world. 

I want to take a moment to recognize the veterans in the room.  Could all of our veterans please stand?

We know our veterans stand strong.  When they sign up, they are choosing a cause greater than any one individual.  You may have to put off plans for family or education, and you’ve done that so you can serve your country.  And some of you may have to leave behind on more than one occasion your family for months, or in some instances, years at a time.

Often, it can be very, very tough on families.  We all know what it’s like to be without loved ones during holidays … to miss out on a college graduation or a high school event.  Often times, you have to move to a new city with each additional assignment.  Or some of you may have had to take care of a wounded warrior. 

No event … no parade … no monument … can repay what we owe to you and your families.  But we should do what we can to support you, just as we support one another.  We need to extend our thanks for your service and sacrifice and recognize the contributions you’ve all made.

I’d like to take a moment and highlight four veterans today and tell you how they’re serving our nation, both in uniform, and more recently, here at the FAA.

First, I’d like to thank Kristen Stewart.  Kristen is an air traffic controller at Washington Dulles Tower and previously, a controller at Washington Center.  She was active duty Air Force for four years, and stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.  She was an air traffic controller, and supported Operation Desert Storm in 1991.  Kristen handled military flights that would stop and refuel between the United States and Kuwait or Turkey.  She handled flights carrying injured and fallen soldiers, and military equipment.   

Next, I want to talk about Robert Parker.  Robert is in our Aviation Safety organization.  He’s a manager in Air Traffic Safety Oversight for Eastern Area operations.  He was also an air traffic controller at Memphis Tower.  He’s a Colonel in the Air National Guard and continues to serve after 32 years. 

As part of the Guard, Robert supported flight operations on many assignments including Bosnia in 1995 … Salt Lake City for the Olympic Winter Games in 2002 … and the Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  He also served two tours in Iraq, where he was in charge of airfield operations at Mosul Air Base, and later at Baghdad International airport.  This was in 2005, when, as I’m sure you recall, it was an especially dangerous time to be in Iraq.  In fact, one night, Robert and his service members saw 13 mortars come into their base over a two-hour period.   

I also want to recognize Laura White.  She is an Employee and Occupational Safety and Health program manager at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. Laura served in the Army for four years.  She was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Her job was to repair ground control approach radar. 

When she joined in the late 1970’s, there weren’t a whole lot of women in the technical fields.  She was truly a pioneer.  Through the GI Bill, Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering technology and started as a technician here at the FAA in 1989.  She began training technicians at the FAA Academy and now works to make sure that the safety component is always included in each and every course taught.  Laura’s combination of military service, technical education and on-the-job experience makes her a great example for young women and girls as we encourage them to pursue technical fields and careers in aviation and aerospace.

Finally, I want to thank Roy Johnson, a Security Assistant at the Great Lakes regional office in Chicago.  Roy served in the Air Force, active duty for four years, and then served in the Air National Guard until he retired in 2006.  After 9/11, he was called up to be part of Operation Noble Eagle, an effort to strengthen homeland security on our military bases and potential targets such as ports and bridges.  Roy also served as a Military Police officer at many locations including the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Kuwait, and in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Of course, we have many executives who are military veterans.  For instance, Major General Edward Bolton, Assistant Administrator for NextGen, joined us from the Air Force. 

And Maria Fernandez-Greczmiel, who runs the agency’s Accountability office, served in the Army’s JAG Corps.  

These are only a few of the 15,000 veterans who are making tremendous contributions here at the FAA.  They are role models of discipline … dedication to the mission … and of course, camaraderie.

Our veterans here at the agency, and throughout the nation, have given so much.  Let’s make a point of giving back, as we mark Veteran’s Day on November 11th.

Thank you very much.   
Before we close, I'd like to recognize a group of people – the FAA’s Military Liaison office.  I’d like to ask them to join me on the stage here.  As they’re coming up, I’m going to tell you a little bit about them.  Many of our employees may not be fully aware of what they do.   

The Military Liaison office was established as part of an agreement between the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration.  The purpose of the office is to enable the close working relationship that we have with our colleagues at the Department of Defense.  They need to have access to the airspace for defense purposes as you heard.  In turn, the DOD helps us support our mission to ensure safe and efficient airspace operations. 

The liaison office helps to coordinate our partnership efforts.  For instance, there is always a discussion that begins around this time of year about handling traffic during busy holiday travel periods.  The liaison office will work directly with our Command Center to facilitate the release of military airspace that they will not be using during the holiday period, but what that enables the Air Traffic Organization to do is to implement strategic routes that have the effect of reducing delay and making sure everyone can make it home for a great thanksgiving dinner or wonderful holiday celebration with their family. 

Also, our military liaisons are helping us to integrate unmanned aircraft into civilian airspace.  They provided us with a lot of input that resulted in the announcement that we made last year, where we selected our six unmanned aircraft test sites.  We’ve been working with them to develop a sense and avoid technology that will substitute for the see and avoid principle that has guided aviation from its beginning.  This is necessary before we can really see full integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. 

These are just two areas where the FAA works with the Defense Department and there are many, many others.   
So if any of you have any questions about DOD airspace operations, they are located in this building, 10A, in room 420, and they can give you what you need.

With that, I’d like to recognize them for their contributions…



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