Gen Edward A. Rice, Jr: air education for the USAF
The resume of this second-gen Air Force officer includes positions from command pilot to post-tsunami disaster relief leader
'The Air Force is almost a small country," explains General Edward A. Rice, Jr. "In order to operate, we need a variety of skills including engineering, science, and research and development on new technologies."
Rice is commander of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC, Randolph Air Force Base, TX). "We educate and train, but we also do recruiting," he says. "I call what we do 'force development.' We develop talent for the Air Force. That involves finding the right people, giving them their indoctrination and initial skills training and sending them out to their first assignments.
"Over their careers, we bring them back for additional developmental education or training. We do it all, from basic military skills that all airmen need, to hard technical skills. We give bachelors and masters degrees. We even confer PhDs," Rice says.
Some people enter the USAF as officers and others as enlisted personnel. "Most airmen come in on the guaranteed enlistment program, meaning that they are matched up with a job before they make their final commitment so they know what they're going to do," he explains. "Others come in not locked into a particular job and will do whatever the Air Force asks of them. Once they're in basic training, we see where we need them and match them up."
Leadership and reflection
Rice joined the Air Force as an officer after attending the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO) where he earned a BS in engineering sciences in 1978. He finished his masters degree in aeronautical science and technology from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, FL) in 1986.
"The great thing about my job is that I don't have any 'typical days,'" he says with a smile. "I attend meetings to get feedback on initiatives going on within the command. I do try to clear an hour of my time in the morning and again in the afternoon to think about what I, and others, need to be doing to move the organization forward. In a job like this, you can spend all your time reacting to what's going on. I've found that it is useful to free space on my schedule to ensure that I'm actually leading actions.
"I have a management and administrative staff that works directly for me. I also have a deputy commander. Operationally, my command has almost 70,000 people in it, divided among recruiting, flight training, technical training, and education. Each of the four commanders reports directly to me."
Rice believes that his leadership approach is "focused and objective-oriented with high standards. I hope my staff would say I'm someone who thinks a lot about the requirements of the future. I'm a good listener, interested in what people have to say, and I'm someone to whom bad news can be told when necessary."
Air Force Academy-bound at nine
General Rice was born in Albuquerque, NM. His father was an Air Force scientist and the family moved around before settling in western Ohio. "Being around the military as much as I was, I was very comfortable with it," he remembers. "By the time I was nine or ten years old, I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy. That was the dream I had for my life.
"I didn't lock into engineering until I got to the academy. I found I liked the discipline of engineering and problem solving. Actually, I liked the whole academic and intellectual package the academy offered. It gave me a very strong education as well as the ability to fly aircraft."
Rice has significant experience in combat and contingency operations. He commanded bomber operations in the first four months of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2004, he served as deputy commander for the joint task force providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia.
The general is a command pilot with almost 4,000 flying hours. He's a member of the Air Force Association (Arlington, VA), the Fraternal Order of Daedalians (JBSA-Randolph, TX) and the Tuskegee Airmen (Tuskegee, AL).
Rice has never considered leaving the Air Force. "It has provided me with great challenges, opportunities and range. You get good at something and then you move on to something else. Here you don't spend thirty or forty years doing the same thing.
"I serve at the pleasure of the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force. I'll be happy to do this job as long as they would like me to, until it comes time to move aside and let other people have opportunities for leadership.
"One way or the other, I'm coming to the end of my active duty military career and, after that, I don't know," General Rice admits. "I'm not ready to retire just yet, but the future is wide open."
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