Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox speaks at Dean’s Breakfast


Master Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher

Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, 18th Air Force commander, talks about the Berlin Airlift "Candy Bomber" and his role in bringing hope to the people of Berlin as part of his lecture at the Dean's Breakfast at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, Nov. 10. Cox addressed about 50 business leaders and John Cook School of Business alumni during the lecture and question-and-answer session, addressing topics such as the role 18th Air Force plays in providing rapid global mobility to deployed forces and explaining how the services work together to move personnel and cargo throughout the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)

Last Thursday’s Dean’s Breakfast featured a presentation by Lt. Gen. Samuel D. Cox, Commander, 18th Air Force, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Lt. Gen Cox first spoke of his experience as commandant of cadets, in charge of over 4,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 25.

He admired the desire each has of being part of something “bigger than themselves” and to “reach their highest potential.”

Lt. Gen. Cox compared this dynamic to the community at SLU, even jokingly adding that he was glad that he is not trying to get into the University as a student nowadays, given its increasing admission selectivity.

Cox hoped to bridge the divide that sometimes exists in the minds of the American people between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, using a pair of busts that are part of the “Walk of Fame” at the air force base to illustrate his point.

The first commemorates an event referred to as “over the hump,” when over a period of two years, 373 aircraft were lost while attempting to supply stranded troops in China. The figure amounts to a crash every other day.

Cox invited the audience to imagine what it may have felt like to serve at that time and in that mission, knowing the risks.

As Cox simply put it, “that is what veterans do.”

Cox’s other reference was to the “Candy Bomber” towards the end of the Berlin Airlift, who attached tiny parachutes to piece of candy and threw them over the city of Berlin.

The point, Cox shared, was to provide hope to the people, another aspect of serving one’s country and being a veteran.

A pair of videos then revealed the logistical capabilities of the Air Force today. The first featured trucks, airplanes, trains, tanks and ships that are all part of what Cox referred to as a “logistical train.” It is such capabilities that make the U.S. a global power, according to Cox, with the ability to “project force wherever we need it.”

The Air Force drops thousands of troops on a regular basis for various missions, including, at some point, to provide humanitarian supplies.

The second video included short snippets of news stories across a variety of TV channels. The killings, warnings, international instability and natural disasters reported were all examples of events to which the Air Force is expected to respond. All of this is done with an all-volunteer force, which has been the case since 1973.

The perspective of a six-year Vietnam Prisoner of War was used to illustrate the changing dynamics of freedom, which is luck when one is born into it, privilege when one lives in it, and changes still when one is willing to die for it as a veteran, which about 3,500 men and women pledge to be willing to do every year with the Air Force.

A final video designed for recent cadets was then shown to the audience, which told cadets that “Your orders are to conquer fears,” and “Do not repeat after us, do better.” Cox emphasized how fortunate the Air Force, and the country is to “have the support of the American populace,” adding that “We are lucky to wear this uniform.”

When asked about the demographic makeup of the men and women under his command, Cox mentioned the importance of diversity and inclusion, especially when women, who make up about 50% of the U.S. population, comprise just 22% of those who serve in the Air Force.

Women depart the Air Force as a rate that is twice has high as men. Cox speculated that part of this has to do with the reality of raising a family, but also emphasized that the goal is to make the “environment right.”

Cox believes that “It is all about talent,” so the environment must be such that the top talent wants to join and serve.

When asked about how the presidential election has changed or will change the Air Force, Cox responded first with, “We support and defend the Constitution of the United States; and we have a Commander in Chief.”

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