Hayden Collins Tampa Bay Address

Captain Hayden Collins gave the keynote address at the Civil Air Patrol Florida Wing Group 3’s annual banquet in Tampa Bay, Florida, on Saturday, October 11.

The program included the presentation of Group, Region, Wing, and National awards to senior members, cadets, and Air Force officers, as well as the presentation of the Spaatz Award.  The General Carl A. Spaatz Award is CAP’s highest honor, recognizing a cadet’s excellence in leadership, character, fitness, and aerospace education, and it was presented at the banquet by Air Force Major General John P. Schoeppner, Jr.

To this audience, Collins spoke about those who pursue leadership, and what is expected of them. “The leadership of this nation is the 1%.  You are training to be the new leaders.  We will need more than 1%.  Your mission is to go and make it 2%.  Be About It.” Collins gave the example of how one man, one decision can change the course of our country, and that one decision makes a difference.  Collins called upon the cadets and officers to be bold, to question with boldness.

In Major General Schoeppner’s presentation of the Spaatz Award, he echoed Collins’ charge, and his recognition that the most important resource we have is our youth.

The banquet’s master of ceremonies was Cadet Colonel Alec Lampasona, who received the Spaatz Award in 2012.  Collins, who is the Emergency Services Officer, Group 1, Squadron 134 in CAP’s Georgia Wing, met him five years ago when Lampasona was a lieutenant in Collins’ Region Cadet Leadership School (an Advanced Training Flight course for officers) at Augusta, GA.  Collins’ leadership, particularly in connection with ATF, is nationally renowned.  As Lampasona introduced Collins at the banquet, he recalled that leadership training experience under Collins as one of the most influential in his life because Collins did not tell him to think, but inspired him to think for himself.

Captain Collins remarked, “I am always inspired by the youth I work with.  They are waiting for the opportunity to succeed.  I see the excitement and the light in their eyes, when the imagination comes to life and they know what to do.”

Contagious Instability ?

There are many aspects that the U.S.’s leadership needs to consider when making decisions about foreign policy, and especially policies that result in U.S. military actions.  These considerations  include the causes of the situations occurring in foreign countries and their likely effect on the worldwide balance of power.  But should we be paying more attention to the motivations of those making decisions in our own country, and what they could lead to here at home?

As we respond to the evolving conditions related to ISIS, to the instability in Israel and also in some sections of Afghanistan, at times it’s hard to tell when the support of the U.S. is being used by one side in order to knock out their foes, and thereby putting us in the position of supporting rebels that we would have opposed previously, but by doing so it is not American lives being put in harm’s way in the battle against a country currently seen as hostile to the U.S.  When analyzing such rapidly-changing alliances and allegiances, one has to wonder: if the U.S. had maintained a strong, consistent military presence in Iraq, would there be an ISIS today?  Or would there be stability, as there was in Germany and Japan after World War II?  When the operations of our military support civilian efforts to create a stable government, it creates the conditions for a stable economy.  The economic recovery in Germany and Japan was because they needed
services and U.S. helped provide infrastructure.  Stability in these places allows them to develop their own systems for providing food and creating employment, and together with the pressure release valve of monitored local elections, there is less motivation for discontent and need-based hostility.  There is less probability that a revolutionary movement like ISIS will find support and resources in a stable economy.

During World War II, members of my family served in Europe, in Guadalcanal in the Pacific theater, and with the Flying Tigers in China.  The nature of warfare has changed since the large-scale movements of WW II, and today attacks are more likely to come from small groups and terrorists, creating guerilla warfare.  One thing we learned in the global conflict of WW II is that you have to change the hearts and minds of individuals.  It is the soldier who win wars; it is ideas that cannot be defeated, and it is the soldier – the boots on the ground – who helps create the ideas.  The power of ideas remains a potent weapon.  A positive U.S. presence in any region has positive results.

Some change has come to be expected in the U.S.’s leadership role in foreign affairs.  Countries around the world have adapted to the polarization of recent administrations, and they expect different policies when there is a Republican president and cabinet that is likely to be more aggressive in foreign affairs, than with a Democrat one that is expected to be more passive and may find itself caught unprepared for international situations that arise.  Despite the administration’s party affiliation, our leadership in foreign policy should be focused on positive economic and stategic goals.

The greatest change to our leadership in the international affairs in recent years, however, may be that our decisions are being constrained by the unprecedented U.S. national debt, which stands to leave our hands tied and limit our military response.  Foreign policy decisions, particularly in the past six years, have not benefited the U.S. and have weakened the country’s international strategic position and our influence – or lack therof.  Without the ability to make prudent decisions with the least amount of restrictions possible, our foreign policy could be crippled for generations to come, as well as restricting our choices to enforcing a policy of isolationism.

In recent years U.S. leadership opted to draw down U.S. military presence overseas, but instability continues and economic stability has not been established, resulting continued disturbance for the residents, support for the dissidents, and here in the U.S. less favorable gas prices.  Now the administration is sending more U.S. military personnel to the same unstable regions – effectively paying for the same ground twice, and expecting different results the second time around.  Other foreign policy options include ongoing occupation and stabilization of the countries/region, as was done after WW II, or not having a U.S. military presence at all and allowing the warring factions within the countries to reach their own decisions.  Our national debt and the out-of-control debt ceiling may make this decision for us.

Another aspect of the foreign policy decision-making we need to consider, is who it is that’s making decisions or allowing them to be made by default.  Many of those currently in leadership positions in the U.S. government came of age in the 1960s, at a time when many young people sought to question government authority/control over their lives. Is their permitting of the expansion of the U.S. national debt in recent years likely to cause the generations that follow them to be controlled by the servicing of that debt?  And how likely is it that this economic instability in the U.S. could lead to the same kind of government/civil instability on our own soil that U.S. military personnel are addressing in other countries?  We do not have another United States to turn to, to aid us, if such instability were to happen here.

The supposed logic of current international politics in recent years has been leaving many of the youth with a blank stare, but lately that blank stare has turned into a scowl.  How can we be in a worse condition than we were six years ago? How can it be that we are letting our debt be the driving factor in our decision-making process for our world position?

Does the current leadership caste not perceive this potential outcome, or is their priority on supporting entitlements and the standard of living for their own retirement?  When we look to the leaders in years past as we study the examples of WW II, they interpreted their responsibility to the life of the country and its Constitution, not limiting their scope to their own generation.  New leadership is needed now to bridge this gap between those who present themselves as unaware of the path they’re leading us toward, and those of the current generation and the ones that will follow.  We need to know that our leaders are willing to change the course of our international affairs and domestic policies – from the current directions that can lead the U.S. itself toward the conditions of instability that we are sending our armed forces abroad to combat.