New 3rd AF commander talks priorities, shares experiences

by Capt. William-Joseph Mojica
U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
Photo by Senior Airman Hailey HauxLt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force commander, meets Airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on their temporary duty to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Aug. 20. Roberson got the chance to meet a few Airmen who have gone above and beyond during this bilateral training event, Thracian Eagle 2014, in Bulgaria.

Photo by Senior Airman Hailey Haux
Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force commander, meets Airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on their temporary duty to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Aug. 20. Roberson got the chance to meet a few Airmen who have gone above and beyond during this bilateral training event, Thracian Eagle 2014, in Bulgaria.

Lt. Gen. Darryl L. Roberson, 3rd Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, outlined his priorities, challenges, leadership philosophy and personal experiences during an interview Sept. 2 on Ramstein.

Roberson indicated he has three top priorities: motivational mission accomplishment, compassionate care of Airmen and their families, and the constant drive to improve and innovate.

“I use ‘motivational and compassionate’ because it’s more than just mission accomplishment and it’s more than just taking care of our Airmen,” Roberson said. “I’m a believer that if you take care of the Airmen and the families, they will willingly take care of the mission. In regards to ‘improve and innovate,’ it’s our Airmen out there who are figuring out better ways to do things on a day-to-day basis. That’s so critical with the challenges we face today, including sequestration, reduced funding and reduced manpower. Our mission remains, and we can’t accomplish our mission without improving and innovating.”

Roberson said readiness is also a critical aspect to the ability of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa to conduct missions that display the command’s “Forward, Ready, Now” capability.

“Readiness is key to our ability to conduct missions,” he said. “We’re rebounding from the repercussions of what we did last year with sequestration and its ripple effects. There are a lot of things going on throughout the USAFE-AFAFRICA theater, and we have to be ready to respond.”

A student of leadership, Roberson has developed a rather unique leadership philosophy throughout his career that he said will serve leaders well.

“I call my leadership philosophy, in its basic form, the three Cs,” he said. “They’re competence, care and character. If you combine the three together, it equals trust, and it’s that trust that is the core of leadership. If you earn trust, people will follow you through fire and climb the hill with you no matter what.”

In order for Airmen to be able to focus on the mission, taking care of their families is essential, and he said he believes his family’s love and support are paramount to his success.

“My wife, Cheryl, has always been so supportive, and she understands when I need to go remote or when I need to take care of business,” Roberson said. “She has always been incredibly supportive, and I would not still be in the Air Force if it was not for her support and understanding, there’s no doubt about it. I couldn’t be more fortunate that we’re still together after 31 years now, more in love today than we were when we started.”

Roberson also has two children who both continued their affiliation with the Air Force. His son, Chad, recently graduated from the Air Force’s undergraduate pilot training, and his daughter, Courtney, is an Air Force spouse.

“I’m ecstatic, and it’s extremely gratifying as a parent to raise children who have some of the same values and who understand and are willing to support and defend our country,” he said of his children. “Personally, the most rewarding part of my career has been balancing the military life with the personal life. I have a loving wife, two great kids and have enjoyed every minute of my Air Force career.”

Roberson grew up no stranger to the military, and moving often is something he is quite familiar with as his father served in the Navy.

“Where I’m from is always an interesting question, because I grew up as a Navy brat,” he said. “My dad was enlisted in the Navy, and he retired as an E-8. So growing up, I moved all over, particularly around the East Coast. He never forced me to join the military, but I remember seeing an air show when I was younger and talking to my dad about wanting to fly.”

Roberson is an avid food fan and specifically enjoys seafood, juicy steaks, desserts and German cuisine.

“Lobster, Alaskan king crab and seafood in general are all great, but I’m a steak guy, and when it comes to desserts, I gotta have them,” he said. “Rarely will I turn down something sweet when it is offered to me. The food here is really good too, particularly the schnitzel with pommes frites, which is one of my favorites.”

Roberson played water polo at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he enjoyed playing a number of sports as a child. Today, he still enjoys playing sports but plays golf the most. He loves watching sports too, particularly during playoffs.

“I’m a Washington, D.C., team fan,” he said. “I like the Nationals. They’re No. 1 right now in their division. I’m a die-hard Redskins fan, even though they may disappoint me, and of course I’m an Air Force Academy sports fan.”

Roberson concluded his interview with a special “thank you” to the Airmen.

“We’re so blessed to be Americans. I’ve traveled to other countries, and we really have it good,” Roberson said. “I want to thank all Airmen for being willing to do this job, defend our country, our way of life and our values for our kids and grandkids. Thank you for all of that.”