Hecker departs Maxwell, Air University for Europe

  • Published
  • By David Dinger

General James Hecker took command of U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa and NATO Allied Air Command on June 27, 2022, with Europe facing challenges brought on by Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

Before departing Maxwell, Hecker sat for an interview with Air University Public Affairs to talk about his time as the Air University commander and president (November 2019-June 2022).

A lieutenant general at the time of this interview, Hecker received his fourth star and command assignment following senate confirmation on June 23, 2022.

Air University Public Affairs: What was your priority during your tenure as commander and president of Air University?

Hecker: “I was given a number of priorities from Air Force leadership when I arrived. While AU accomplished a tremendous amount to meet the set goals, I think the one priority that became the common thread was recruiting and maintaining quality people. Initiatives with outreach during faculty recruiting, or offering better family stability by extending tour lengths for students so they could also instruct, paid large dividends over the last two years. People will always be your common denominator of success, and it is certainly no different here.”

AUPA: What are you most proud of during your time here at Maxwell?

Hecker: “If I had to look to one, it would be the great work in tearing down barriers and making the River Region a better place to live for not only our Airmen, but more importantly the local community. The initiatives in K-12 education opportunities and betterment thanks to widening the pool of qualified workers through spouse reciprocity are other areas that come to mind. The power of our Air University team working side by side with our local and state leaders paid tremendous dividends that will be felt in years to come.”

AUPA: With Europe in conflict and our potential adversaries gaining military capability and capacity, what are your thoughts on Air University’s role in educating the Airmen that you will be leading in Europe?

Hecker: “Air University’s role in educating leaders cannot be overstated. Strategic competition with our potential adversaries demands critical thinking from our noncommissioned officers, officers and civilians. With the future employment of air forces into joint all-domain operations and using agile combat employment, our leaders will be tested, and the education Air University provides is critical to that development in thinking and understanding capabilities of both adversaries as well as partner nations. Air University’s Chinese Aerospace Studies Institute is a great example of competition education and understanding.”

AUPA: The Air Force is facing a more-resource constrained environment, has Air University addressed this issue?

Hecker: “Yes. Budgets could be stretched in the very near future. By its very nature, Air University generates deep-thinking research from both students and faculty that questions the status quo and forces thought about change. We stood up AUIX, our innovation cell, which works across the university and industry identifying and connecting promising knowledge capital to develop effective innovation. Blue Horizons is another example of using Airmen’s brainpower to drive creative solutions for the Air Force. Innovation across the schools and centers, along with supporting commanders in the field, all serve as a critical asset for the entire Air Force.”

AUPA: Do you have any last thoughts?

Hecker: “While this assignment comes short-notice, it would be wrong not to publically thank the faculty, students and staff of Air University and Maxwell Air Force Base. In addition, our partners in the River Region and Alabama as a whole have been not only great partners, but they have become great friends to Terrie and me. My time at Maxwell has been amazing and it is solely because of these individuals. As Terrie and I depart for Germany, we leave with a sense of great accomplishment and very fond memories, thanks to all of you. Thank you for your friendships, your partnerships in what we were able to do, and most importantly, what you will continue to do as the university and mission partners continue to build to greater things.”