WARRENSBURG — Air Force Gen. (Ret.) Richard B. Myers remembered the legacy of the late U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton during remarks as the inaugural speaker for the former congressman’s memorial lecture at the University of Central Missouri on Wednesday.
The Ike Skelton Lecture, part of the UCM’s new Servant Leadership Lecture Series, drew a large crowd of UCM students, Whiteman Air Force Base Military personnel and community members. Myers was joined in his remarks by outgoing Brig. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 509th Bomb Wing commander, and UCM President Charles Ambrose.
In his introduction of Myers, Bussiere, who will leave his post next month and move to a new job as Deputy Director of Command, Control, and Nuclear Operations on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, called Myers an ideal choice to lead off Skelton lecture, noting the professional and personal relationship that developed between the two men during their years of public service.
Of Skelton, Bussiere called the 17-term congressman “the father of Whiteman Air Force Base and the father of the B-2 as it relates to long range aviation” and credited him with “building a foundation for professional military education in our joint service and building our leaders of the future.”
Myers, a four star general who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Oct. 1, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2005, praised Skelton as “a true gentleman” whose dedication as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee to “continuing professional military education and seamless cooperation between military branches left a lasting impression on the nation’s defense capabilities.”
“(Skelton) was probably the only one in Congress who understood (professional military education) to the depth it needed to be understood and now that he is gone we don’t have anybody left who has that depth of understanding or the passion … about our military education,” Myers said. “We all miss him and the country will miss him for sure and we need somebody to step forward and take up this educaton moniker for the Congress.”
During his remarks, Myers went on to stress the importance of character, integrity and trustworthiness, setting a good example and accessibility as essential to good leadership, whether in the military or private sector realms.
Myers said the nation faces a number of challenges, including violent extremism, the economy and environmental threats, however “in my view the way you address those challenges is with strong leadership, and when I say strong leadership I mean strong in character.”
All three men also took time to highlight UCM’s Whiteman Advantage program, with Myers calling it “a model program” for partnerships between colleges, universities and members of the military.
Ambrose described the program as an extension of the “shared responsibilities” of both Whiteman and UCM, as well as the nations shared responsibility’s to military personnel and their families.
“When you dig a little deeper into the missions and shared responsibilities that both WAFB and the University have you find a shared mission of both leadership and services, and, of course a special obligation to those individuals that serve our country on a daily basis,” Ambrose said.
Whiteman Advantage, begun as a partnership between Amrbose and and former 50th Bomb Wing commander Maj. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm and continued under Bussiere’s tenure, offers tuition assistance, enrollment options, health and wellness programs, an on-campus Office of Military and Veteran Services.
During press availability before his lecture, Myers told reporters “one of the biggest needs the military has today concerns those who are transitioning to private life, and there are going to be a lot of them given where the budget is going.”
“One of the things America needs to do is ease that transition, so here I think we have the perfect combination between the base and the university,” Myers said. “That is exactly the right thing to do and what we owe to our service men and women and their families.”
Myers also told reporters he sees a long future for global strike capabilities, including Whiteman’s B-2 Stealth Bomber mission.
“The need for long-range strike will be there for quite some time and the B-2 will be part of that equation for quite some time,” Myers said. “Clearly the mission performed by the B-2 is a really critical mission to our national security and that has been validated not just by the Air Force but by the Department of Defense and Congress for that matter so I think there is probably going to be a long-term relationship.”