LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- It’s March and Air Force members are donning bulletproof mustaches exponentially. Their newly acquired face armor is more visible than Liberty Mutual commercials.
If you’ve spent more than two weeks in the military, you know that growing a furry lip ornament is one way to commemorate the iconic Brig. Gen. Robin Olds. Albeit this tradition is a fun way to build camaraderie, it can be easy to miss hidden gems in plain sight.
By anyone’s standards, what Olds did for the Air Force is extraordinary, a Marvel like character, but way cooler. Unfortunately when we think about super heroes, it’s coded in our DNA to fall in love with the heroics opposed to the culture he or she changed.
When you read between the lines, Olds championed diversity and inclusion by promoting a sense of belonging, an environment to implement new ideas, and always doing what he felt was right.
With that being said, let’s look beyond the status quo and study the presents this gifted leader continues to pass down.
There’s no better place that internalizes these characteristics like the 434 Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Coincidentally, Olds was a former squadron commander there.
At any given time in the squadron, you will see a diverse mixture of enlisted, officers, and civilians from different backgrounds, gender, and race who seamlessly work together toward one common goal.
“I like to think the 434th maintains Robin Olds forward learning mentality, said Capt. Mike Beachamp 434th FTS instructor pilot. He was an inspiration to the people to around him and a “staunch advocate for better pilots. Two things we (the Red Devils) pride ourselves on is a great sense of comradery and setting the standard for our students.”
The 434th supports the second largest flying hour program and flies over 35,000 hours annually. The instructors develop fundamental skills critical to combat pilots, officers, and leaders by preparing students for follow-on training.
It truly takes a concerted effort to get a jet and pilot airborne. Whether it’s a maintainer, aircrew flight equipment, flight records or step desk to name a few, EVERYONE has to be on their A game, or the effects would be catastrophic.
Their success is attributed to embracing multifaceted layers of diversity and employing the universal rule of treating everyone the same. Considering how many sorties they generated last year in triple digit weather, morale was a natural byproduct of their collective efforts.
Olds will always be synonymous with Mustache March and most will never come close to his accolades; however, everyone can embody his ability to be a change agent.
After all these years, that legacy can still be found in the men and women of the 434th FTS.