This week, General Mark Welsh III was nominated to be the next chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. By all accounts, General Welsh is perhaps the most respected leader in the Air Force today, and for months both active and retired Air Force personnel were rooting for him to occupy the top slot. Currently serving as Commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe, Welsh will take over a service whose mission is more vital than ever, but one that has flown through lots of turbulence in recent years, from severe budget cuts to program mismanagement and security failures. It would be hard to find an American military leader as inspiring as General Welsh, now that David Petraeus has retired, and the Air Force will have a formidable leader in the coming years. (Full disclosure: I have exchanged emails with Gen Welsh, but we have not met in person).
Yet Welsh’s leadership is not for the Air Force alone, and it should inspire all Americans. If you want to understand what is so extraordinary about our volunteer military, and sadly compare it to what is valued in our universities and media, then watch this address by General Welsh to the Air Force Academy cadets. It is worth every minute you spend on it. It will make you proud, it will humble you, and it will bring alive the professionalism of the men and women who so selflessly devote themselves to protecting us.