Making Nice With the Air Force

A Navy admiral emphasizes interservice solidarity

DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

What does a Navy admiral tell a ballroom full of Air Force officers? If you’re vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just about anything, as long as it’s nice.

Admiral James Winnefeld Jr. used his appearance at the Air Force Association’s conference September 18 at National Harbor, Maryland to stress not only the importance of readiness for the next conflict in the face of shrinking budgets, but his own ties to the Air Force.

In wishing the service a happy 66th birthday, the former Topgun instructor called himself “an island of white in a sea of Air Force blue.” Then Winnefeld reminded the audience of his past. “I’ve had the joy of flying with and against, and literally taking gas from, a lot of talented airmen—always trying to keep them in front of me, which is not an easy task, I assure you. I’ve tried to keep up with a B-1 in mil power with my old Tomcat in full afterburner.

“I’ve been directed by many a superb Air Force Joint Terminal Air Controller. I’ve lived on an Air Force base. I’ve literally lived with the Air Force, my college roommate for a while having been Phil Breedlove . People expected him to be successful.

“I’ve even thrown a football with Peyton Manning in the back of a C-17 high over Afghanistan. I can also say that given my last three jobs , I now probably know as many Air Force generals by their first names as I do Navy admirals. Heck, in this job, sometimes people call me general, which always quickens my step. And as a Georgia Tech graduate, I can say that I’m somewhat—somewhat—neutral regarding Air Force-Navy football.”

He closed his remarks with thanks from “this humble Naval officer” and exhorted the assembled airmen to “fly, fight, and win!”

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.