Ace speaks for Project Connect

Airman 1st Class Edward Drescher
Kaiserslautern American

Retired Air Force Col. Chuck DeBellevue stopped by the Hercules Theater July 15 to give a speech to Ramstein Airmen as part of a Project Connect event.

Project Connect is a mentoring program running throughout U.S. Air Forces in Europe, which aims at the development of junior officers.

With over 300 Airmen in attendance, Colonel DeBellevue had the opportunity to reach out to a number of officers.

The Vietnam Ace sent various messages to the troops, including the importance of preparation and training and taking the fight to the enemy. He also gave a few motivational tips and shared some good old fashioned war stories.

435th Air Base Wing commander Col. Kurt Lohide opened for Colonel DeBellevue and had a few nice words to say. Colonel Lohide said when he was a lieutenant, he would draw motivation from Col. DeBellevue because they each started as F-4 Phantom backseaters.

“Over the years I flew F-4s, I took great satisfaction of reminding my pilot friends that the leading ace of Vietnam was not a pilot, but a (F-4 weapons system officer),” said Colonel Lohide. “Colonel DeBellevue represents the best our country has to offer: a great combat aviator, a great patriot, and a great American.”

Colonel DeBellevue took part in 96 different missions in North Vietnam, including the two Linebacker operations. He retired in 1998 and was the last American Ace on active duty.

As he told stories from his missions he focused on how important training and preparation was in order for mission to success.
“If you don’t train the way you are going to fight, you will fight the way you train,” he said.

Colonel DeBellevue’s speech also reached out to the enlisted members in the audience as he continued on with the topic of teamwork.

He said it is vital for everyone to realize they are on the same team. He talked about how not everyone will get the glory or the spotlight, but all the people behind the scenes are what make the operations flow. He compared it to his time in Vietnam when he said himself and the other pilots weren’t the most important people; rather it was the crew chiefs and maintenance guys who maintained the airplanes.

The opportunity for Colonel DeBellevue to reach out and speak to all different Air Force ranks made this Project Connect event a success. He was able to relate the message of leadership and followership to both officers and enlisted members.

“This is the whole spirit of Project Connect because it’s a great forum not only for Airmen of all ranks to meet with distinguished guests, but also a chance to connect with their squadron and group commanders. All they have to do is find the name on the Web site and ‘connect,’” said 2nd Lt. Abe Redoble, 435th Air Base Wing commanders action group member, who attended Colonel DeBellevue’s speech.