18th Air Force is Ready Today, Prepared for Tomorrow … EXPEDITE


Col Patrick C. Winstead, Vice Commander, 18th Air Force, Scott Air Force Base, IL, brings valuable experience to his current position, in which he serves 12 wings comprising 36,000 Airmen. Winstead learned a lot working for Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) personnel team in the Directorate of Manpower, Personnel and Services, including knowledge about military and civilian personnel programs and policies. He is grateful to Maj Gen Martin, the 18th Air Force Commander, for the opportunity to serve in the 18th Air Force. Their vision statement is: Ready today, prepared for tomorrow…EXPEDITE. “I really think that’s what our wings embody, that 18th Air Force Vision. They’re already doing that every day,” Winstead stated.

“The 18th Air Force is AMC’s sole numbered Air Force and the 12 wings of the 18th Air Force have custody of AMC’s flying missions. That includes airlift, air refueling, DV transport, and aeromedical evacuation. So, the 18th Air Force Commander and his staff have a responsibility to provide ready, trained, and equipped forces to execute AMC’s flying missions,” said Winstead. The 12 wings of the 18th Air Force impress Winstead with how they have developed thorough and innovative ways to prepare and train for the possible future fight.

“This stretches from training Airmen in realistic combat scenarios to hone their expeditionary skills, to develop new tactics, techniques, and procedures—TTPs— that allow us to employ our aircraft in more difficult environments and at a tempo required to win,” he said.

The “Warrior Heart Initiative,” an endeavor started by Gen Mike Minihan, AMC Commander, that aims to support the mind, body, and craft required to win our future fight, is an example of how the wings of the 18th Air Force support the National Defense Strategy with new ways of delivering help and professional development to our Airmen.

“[The] 18th Air Force’s role is to advocate for the readiness of those wings, to advocate for the resources they need to prepare for the future fight, and really to develop our Airmen—because that underpins our National Defense Strategy and it prepares our forces for the future, focuses on Airmen and their readiness, and also the equipment they need to take care of our mission,”

Col Patrick C. Winstead

Based on his experiences in service, Winstead wants Airmen to prioritize building their technical expertise. In the Air Force, most start with a basic level of knowledge in their relative specialties and develop expertise as they learn and grow, according to Winstead, who encourages all Airmen—enlisted, officers, and civilians—to strive for a high level of technical expertise and learn how to apply it to our warfighting mission. Winstead believes discipline and hard work are involved in that pursuit, which will pay off for every individual and make our Air Force even stronger. Winstead notes that as Airmen develop their technical expertise, individuals should prepare for and even aspire to increasing levels of leadership. Leadership is not all about being in charge, said Winstead, but also about serving and understanding those under your charge and preparing them for the mission at hand and future missions. “I want Airmen to learn the art of leadership at their level and be the best leader that they can be because, ultimately, military service is a team sport, and we need everybody on the team at their best and doing their best,” Winstead emphasized.

According to Winstead, Mobility Guardian 2023 is an operations exercise that all AMC Airmen have been working toward. This year’s exercise is the largest in AMC’s history, with more than 3,000 Mobility Airmen and over 70 aircraft participating. Other recent endeavors of the 18th Air Force Winstead has worked on include Operation Centennial Contact, which, on June 27, celebrated 100 years of air refueling. The event was a collaborative effort across AMC and Headquarters Air Force, led by the 6th Air Refueling Wing. Winstead has been working to streamline the 18th Air Force Strategy, which aligns closely with AMC’s strategy, and was recently published and distributed to 18 AF wings. Additionally, he is working to ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted services for the wings of 18th Air Force, as several key positions in headquarters have turned over recently and seven new Wing Commanders are taking command.

When asked about Airmen safety stories or lessons learned, Winstead recalled his days as a pilot in the C-17 conducting air-to-air refueling with tanker aircraft. Having two large aircraft flying within 20 feet of each other at high speeds to conduct aerial refueling has multiple risks. However, over the years the Air Force developed training and equipment allowing this activity to be accomplished safely and regularly. “So how do we make the higher-risk activities into safe and regular activities? Well, you have to understand the risks that are involved in the activity, the severity of a poor outcome, and the likelihood of that outcome occurring,” said Winstead. “I know we can’t eliminate all risk from our activities, but safe mission accomplishment allows for quick and effective and repeatable mission accomplishment. And I think if we focus on the risks, do everything we can to mitigate them, and be really aware of our surroundings, our training, our equipment, and ourselves, then we’ll be as safe as we can. And that’s what we need our Airmen out there doing,” Winstead emphasized.