Farewell to a warrior leader

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Mark Villella
  • 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing command chief
Last week, we bid farewell to one of the best warrior leaders in our Air Force.

Brig. Gen. Michael Longoria has positively affected not only our Air Force Airmen, but he has also developed our sister service brethren.

His vast experiences as a combat controller, Office of the Secretary of Defense staff member, group commander, wing commander and commanding general for the Joint Interagency Task Force, High Value Individuals, Multi-National Force-Iraq, have given him the depth and breadth to be a master mentor.

One of his tenets is that our number one job as leaders is to create new leaders.
In regards to this tenent, he has excelled not only as the teacher, but occasionally as the student.

General Longoria has hosted numerous mentoring sessions and during these session, at some point, the discussion will always revert back to one of his first Air Force mentors; Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Tony Urenda.

He was an noncommissioned officer who provided the initial mortar and bricks supplying the strong foundation General Longoria has built upon throughout his career.

As a coach and mentor, General Longoria has often pushed leaders outside of their comfort zone. In fact, he did this with me.

I was happy as a tactical air control party squadron superintendent, but he knew I could do more as a command chief.

Through his confidence and inspiration, he encouraged me to take the leap to become a command chief. This experience has expanded my horizons many fold and it is one of many stories of success based on his support and faith in senior NCOs.

His influence on the officer corps was also monumental.

Prior to his arrival as an air support operations group commander, the TACP community rarely had an air support operations squadron commander promoted to colonel. Nowadays, it has become a standard result to get two to three officers promoted every cycle.

He spent years coaching and mentoring personnel, taking them to the next level of leadership. He lived by his core belief that the number one job of a leader is to create new leaders and because of this, our great Air Force will continue to excel despite his departure.

Although he won't be physically present in our organization, his spiritual presence, teachings, passion, and inspiration will be carried forward as a part of countless warrior leaders.

I've had the distinct honor and pleasure of working on and off with General Longoria for about six years.

He is the biggest supporter of the enlisted force I've seen and I'm not alone in my opinion.

If someone were to ask the officer and enlisted personnel who worked with this great officer, I would be shocked to find someone who wouldn't echo this sentiment.

During the period when he was dual-hatted as an expeditionary wing commander and home station group commander, his duties required him to travel between continents. Every time he returned to theater, he held meetings with the senior officers and then with the SNCOs.

We all observed that he genuinely wanted our perspective and took action to incorporate our feedback. He did this because he valued our opinions, expertise and perspective and the effect this respect had on all of was profound.

One of General Longoria's other successes is how he has advanced the Air Force's Theater Air Command and Control System to the next level. Through his advocacy, the TACP and battlefield weather teams have received additional manpower, funding, equipment and exposure.

Whether quietly or loudly (but always passionately), he advocated the need for critical changes to major command headquarters and senior officers.

Prior to becoming the wing commander and while the wing organizational design was being staffed, he campaigned for the 820th Security Forces Group to fall under his command.

Having TACP, battlefield weather and combat-focused security forces Airmen under a single leader forms a powerful ground combat triad and General Longoria has used this triad to advance the effectiveness of ground combat forces throughout our Air Force.

General Longoria has promoted this kind of vital and effective change throughout his career and likens this change to one of his favorite quotes by Tiger Woods made during a Masters golf tournament. Tiger Woods said that, "he's never satisfied." Because of this, General Longoria says that if the greatest golfer in the world isn't ever satisfied, how can he ever be.

General Longoria has positively affected hundreds of lives throughout his 30-year military career.

While a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., he was required to learn a quote which became his way of life and his command philosophy.

This quote was from Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield's graduation address to the graduating Class of 1879 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The quote began with,"The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself. While he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself."

General Longoria has led warriors in peacetime and in combat. He has been the very epitome of the ability to impart instructions and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the Airmen no feeling, but an intense desire to obey and his leadership will be sorely missed.