Col. Paul R. Birch, Ph.D. is the Commander, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Wing consists of three groups with over 2,800 Battlefield Airmen at 20 locations throughout the Continental U.S. Its subordinate units are the 3d Air Support Operations Group at Fort Hood, Texas, the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 820th Base Defense Group at Moody AFB. The ASOGs provide Air, Space, and Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance and weather expertise to plan, coordinate, and execute the supported ground commander’s scheme of maneuver. The 820th BDG provides rapidly deployable, fully integrated, highly specialized forces for active internal and external base defense.

Col. Birch earned his commission as a distinguished graduate from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996. He holds a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a doctoral degree from the Air University. He is a senior pilot with more than 2,100 flying hours in the T-34C, T-1, T-39, T-37, T-38, AT-38, F-15E, KC-10A, U-2S and E-3B/G. He has over 750 combat hours and has flown missions in operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support.

Prior to assuming his current position, Colonel Birch was the Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs (SAF/IA).

Lt Col Nicholas S. Lofthouse is the Commander, 3rd Operations Support Squadron, 3rd Operations Group, 3rd Wing, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska. The 3rd Operations Support Squadron enables all aspects of flying operations including tower, airfield operations, weather forecasting, intelligence, aircrew flight equipment, scheduling, flight simulators, aviation resource management wing training, and wing weapons for locally assigned F-22, E-3, C-17, C-12, HC-130, and HH-60 aircraft. The squadron maintains 24/7 airfield operations in an arctic environment to support real-world airlift missions and alert commitments for rescue, fighter, and command and control aircraft.

Lt Col Lofthouse entered the Air Force in 2003 through the United States Air Force Academy. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Military History from the Air Force Academy, a Master of Science in Quantitative Finance from the University of London, and a Master of Arts in Military Operational Art and Science from Air Command and Staff College. Lt Col Lofthouse graduated from SUPT at Columbus Air Force Base in 2004, and is a Command Pilot with over 1,200 flying hours in the F-15A/B/C/D and F-22A. His flying duties include qualifications as an instructor pilot, flight evaluator, and mission commander. Previous assignments have included duties as a Flight Commander, Legislative Liaison for Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force, Requirements Officer on the Air Staff, and Fighter Squadron Director of Operations. Lt Col Lofthouse has deployed to USPACOM for two Theater Security Packages, and most recently he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2017, as the Team Leader for the Air Defense Liaison Team serving in the Iraqi Air Defense Operations Center.

Brigadier General (Retired) Trent H. Edwards is the Senior Vice President, Military and Community Development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. Gen. Edwards entered the Air Force in 1990 after graduating from North Carolina A&T State University. He served in key Air Force and Secretary of Defense staff positions such as Aide de Camp to the Commander Air Education and Training Command and Senior Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller.

Gen. Edwards served 30 years as an active duty Airman and finished his career as the United States Air Force Director of Budget Operations and Personnel.  Prior to that assignment, he was the Comptroller and Programmer for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has commanded two Air Force Wings, including the largest training wing in the Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base, and the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base from 2012-2014.  Upon retirement, Gen. Edwards returned to Montgomery, Alabama with his family to continue serving in a city he calls his “adopted home”, and the best hometown in the Air Force.

On the 11th episode of the LaaD Podcast, we talk with two officers who refuse to let their rank (or lack of) stand in the way of making a positive impact throughout the Air Force. In February 2018, Captain Lewis and 1st Lieutenant Hines successfully launched the Higher Level Leadership Conference, where their mission is to mold military and civilian minorities into highly influential leaders dedicated to unifying, educating, and empowering generations.

Captain Russell A. Lewis is a native of Harrisville, Mississippi, and a 2015 graduate of Jackson State University, where he earned his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and began his career as a Force Support Officer at Keesler AFB, Mississippi. As a Force Support Officer for the 81st Force Support Squadron at Keesler, he commanded the Military Personnel Flight where he led 40 military and civilian members. Capt. Lewis also led the Sustainment Services Flight, which consisted of 25 facilities, 400 personnel, and he executed a $21 million budget. Lt Lewis deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, U.A.E., in 2018 as an Executive Officer for the 380th Maintenance Group. 

EDUCATION – Bachelor and Master of Social Work, Jackson State University 

1st Lieutenant Jared I. Hines is a a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a 2016 graduate of The University of South Carolina, where he earned his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and is currently continuing his career as a contracting officer in San Diego, CA. With three years of Active Duty service, Lt. Hines holds a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level I, and is responsible for the administration and execution of 426 contracts portfolio totaling over $22.5 billion in contract value. He manages a contracts team that executes a workload consisting of two ACAT 1C Programs (MQ1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper) in various life cycle stages ranging from Research and Development (R&D) through Full Rate Production. Additionally, he supports a robust Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program servicing over 14 countries worldwide.

EDUCATION – Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, University of South Carolina

Chief Master Sgt. David W. Wade is the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA. He advises the commander and staff on matters influencing the health, welfare, morale and effective utilization of all assigned personnel. The command operates more than 1,000 aircraft, 35 wings, 11 bases, and 1,348 units at more than 300 operating locations worldwide with 159,000 total force military and civilian personnel. As the Combat Air Forces lead agent, ACC develops strategy, doctrine, concepts, tactics and procedures for air-, space-, and cyber-power employment. The command provides conventional and information warfare forces to all unified commands to ensure air, space, cyber, and information superiority for warfighters and national decision-makers. The command can also be called upon to assist national agencies with intelligence, surveillance and crisis response capabilities.

Chief Wade, a native of Bismarck, North Dakota, enlisted in the Air Force in October 1992. His background includes various positions within aircraft maintenance to include Flying Crew Chief, Section Chief, Maintenance Flight Chief, Production Superintendent, Aircraft Maintenance Unit Superintendent and Group Superintendent.

Prior to his current position, Chief Wade was the Command Chief for Ninth Air Force, Shaw Air Force Base, SC. He has deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

General Mike “Mobile” Holmes is the Commander, Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. As the commander, he is responsible for organizing, training, equipping and maintaining combat-ready air, space, cyber and intelligence forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime defense. The command operates more than 1,000 aircraft, 35 wings, 11 bases, and 1,348 units at more than 300 operating locations worldwide with 159,000 total force military and civilian personnel.

As the Combat Air Forces lead agent, ACC develops strategy, doctrine, concepts, tactics, and procedures for air-, space-, and cyber-power employment. The command provides conventional and information warfare forces to all unified commands to ensure air, space, cyber, and information superiority for warfighters and national decision-makers. The command can also be called upon to assist national agencies with intelligence, surveillance and crisis response capabilities.

General Holmes entered the Air Force through Officer Training School in 1981 after receiving a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee. He has commanded the 27th Fighter Squadron, the 14th Operations Group, the 4th Fighter Wing and the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. He has served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on headquarters staffs of the United States Air Force, U.S. European Command and Pacific Air Forces. Prior to his current position, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va.

He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours, including over 530 combat hours in the F-15A/B/C/D/E, and has also flown the T/AT-38, T-37, and T-1A.

Chief Master Sergeant Hope L. Skibitsky is the Command Chief, 27th Special Operations Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. The wing has 6,000 active and civilian Airmen and joint partners directly supporting United States Special Operations Command operations across five combatant commands and 6 continents. Chief Skibitsky is the senior enlisted advisor to the Commander on all aspects of employment, training, readiness, resilience, and development of the force.

Chief Skibitsky also serves as the Command Senior Enlisted Leader for Joint Special Operations Air Component-Central, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. In this role she advises the commander on the employment, readiness, and resiliency of 700 Special Operations Aviation personnel from all branches of the Armed Forces. Joint Special Operations Air Component-Central has operational responsibility for all Special Operations Aviation across the Central Command area of responsibility.

Hailing from Ranger, Texas, Chief Skibitsky entered the Air Force in September 1995. She enrolled in the Medical Technician Apprentice technical training course at Sheppard AFB, Texas in October of 1995 and graduated Phase II in April of 1996. Her background includes duties in Education and Training, Health and Wellness, and Base Honor Guard. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Resources Management, through Ashford University. She is a certified facilitator in multiple professional development training courses, and is passionate about the development of Airmen at all levels. Her assignments include bases in Texas, California, and England as well as multiple deployments in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.