The views and opinions expressed or implied in WBY are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents.

Moving the “Big Rock”: Inculcating Critical Thinking in the Air Force’s Project Warrior

  • Published
  • By Dr. Heather P. Venable


When Gen David L. Goldfein became the chief of staff of the Air Force (CSAF) in 2016, he sought to revitalize the Air Force. He also narrowed in on the squadron as the “core fighting unit” by which Airmen most strongly identified with the service’s “culture and traditions.”1 At this point, it is difficult to assess General Goldfein’s success in imparting lasting cultural change, but it is hoped that new CSAF Gen Charles Q. Brown will consider for one of his “big rocks” how to achieve the “intellectual overmatch” that the Joint Chiefs of Staff enjoin by attacking the Air Force’s reputation for anti-intellectualism in some corners.2 It is worth taking note of the successes and failures of a similar movement that occurred at the beginning of the 1980s—Project Warrior—that has received virtually no scholarly attention.

Despite its many similarities to Goldfein’s efforts, Project Warrior began quite differently with a different intent—to intellectualize and professionalize the officer corps. Soon, however, Project Warrior’s mission expanded as it sought to increase the motivation of all Airmen by erasing long-extant cultural fissures and an overly technical focus.3 As Lt Col Fred Shiner explained in 1983, “I think everybody felt something was wrong, because we were more concerned with things than with people. In a general sense we lost sight of what we’re all about.”4 Goldfein’s intent is largely the same except the intellectual component is absent; this is important because Project Warrior sought to impart an open-minded and critical approach to military history, the same kind of free-thinking approach required for fostering innovation and creative solutions to future war-fighting problems. Indeed, many US military segments have recognized the importance of reevaluating critical thinking in military education.5

In many ways, Goldfein and Brown fit the typical mold of a post-Vietnam Air Force chief of staff, given their backgrounds as fighter pilots. The originator of Project Warrior, however, strikingly did not. Gen Lew Allen, who served as CSAF from 1978 to 1982, graduated from the US Military Academy in 1946 and subsequently flew B-29s and B-36s, although not in combat. He then received a doctorate in nuclear physics in 1954, which led to a long stint in the missile and space communities, including serving as Space and Missile Systems Organization director of special projects. Thus, Allen largely escaped identification for much of his career with the so-called “bomber mafia” that dominated Air Force culture through the early 1970s.

Despite this scientific and technical bent, CSAF Allen—the first CSAF to earn a doctorate—worked to intensify the Air Force’s identity by bridging a deep divide between “warriors and technocrats.”6 While Allen’s background made him a natural fit for the technical side of the cultural debate, he remarkably oversaw the implementation of a program that attempted to swing the Air Force over to the war-fighting side. He also increased the Air Force’s attention to its heritage to strengthen its institutional culture so that Airmen might more strongly identify with the service as a whole. In 1979, for example, Allen made the Army Air Corps’ official song the official song of the Air Force.7 His efforts also resulted in the first Air Force “Heritage Week,” celebrated in 1982 as part of Project Warrior.8

Even earlier, in the summer of 1981, Allen began interjecting a strong jolt of intellectualism into its officer corps, appointing a group to study the officer corps’ perceived ignorance of military history.9 The project formally began in February 1982, and Headquarters Air Force (HAF) largely implemented the results of earlier studies by September of 1982. The succeeding CSAF, Gen Charles A. Gabriel, subsequently continued the program.10

It is unknown to what extent Allen may have been influenced by the Royal Air Force, which began a “revival of strategic thinking” in 1976 when it established the position of director of Defense Studies. It also took steps to provide more intellectual opportunities for its officers.11

Allen did not craft his idea for Project Warrior in isolation, benefiting deeply from others stationed at HAF—particularly his vice chief of staff, Gen Robert C. Mathis. Having graduated from the US Military Academy, Mathis diverged from Allen’s career path, flying fighters in the Korean War followed by a tour as an instructor at the US Naval Academy. Their paths then converged more strikingly as Mathis became involved in weapons testing, including ballistic missile defense, before earning a doctorate in electrical engineering. Thus, like Allen, Mathis had a deep grounding in science. Yet his combat experience in Korea, along with an additional 200 combat missions in Vietnam, helped to complement Allen’s lack of combat experience. And, like Allen, he proved receptive to reinvigorating a study of the art of war. For example, in multiple conversations, he showed his appreciation for a broad understanding of military history, calling for Air University to expand its historical studies as far back as the Greeks and Romans.12 Even more unconventionally, he suggested to other Air University representatives that they go back to Genghis Khan, hardly the normal starting place for historical study in 1981. Indeed, his comments anticipated the shift away from Western history to world history as institutionalized today in the US Air Force Academy’s core courses.13 Together with Mathis, Allen took the unexpected step in steering the Air Force clearly in the direction of military professionalism as the initial impetus for Project Warrior.14 More specifically regarding military professionalism, Allen and Mathis steered the Air Force toward the art of war rather than the science of war, again implicitly weighing in on heated debates that the Air Force had neglected the art of war, thus explaining its failures in Vietnam.15 It only made sense to bring the study of military history to the forefront, according to some Air Force officers.16

Allen and Mathis did not act in isolation. Instead, their development of Project Warrior constituted implicit participation in larger post-Vietnam debates within the entire community of military professionals as well as debates more germane to the Air Force. For the military as a whole, a key issue centered on whether officers had become too managerial at the expense of becoming leaders.17 More specifically, in the technologically centric Air Force, this manifested itself in debates of whether the Air Force had become too focused on “making people technicians and managers to the exclusion of making sure they are also becoming military professionals.”18 Outside observers also criticized the Air Force, challenging it to study history more deeply, and some Air Force officers somewhat begrudgingly admitted that these arguments had some merit.19

Unsurprisingly, this approach had a strong champion in Air University Review, which repeatedly asked its readers to consider military history’s value. Steering the Review was Lt Col John Guilmartin, a Soldier-scholar who had flown rescue missions as a Jolly Green helicopter pilot in Vietnam before earning his doctorate from The Ohio State University. Under his leadership, the Review explored the value of history in back-to-back issues in 1980. In the first issue, Dr. Dennis Showalter analyzed why the Air Force appeared to have less interest in history than its sister services.20 A succeeding issue introduced a series of three history articles with a brief introduction that asked readers to wrestle with the importance of historical precedent for military professionals.21 One of the articles, written by Maj Gen I. B. Holley, Jr., rhetorically asked a readership consisting largely of Airmen why they should concern themselves with the Battle of Marathon. He then provided them with a “technique” to conduct an effective historical study, walking them through that ancient battle as a case study. He subsequently concluded by challenging Air Force officers to study history more deeply to determine whether or not the principles of war corresponded to airpower’s nature.22

Similar issues concerned the Project Warrior Steering Group as it began preparing to implement the program because of its implications for future war-fighting preparation; group members worried that even the Air Force’s best officers demonstrated historical ignorance. In a letter that must have made Air University’s commander cringe, Maj Gen Perry M. Smith explained that he had identified “numerous deficiencies within our officer corps” that even affected the “talented group of officers” in Plans. These deficiencies could be characterized as a “general lack of understanding of Air Force history, the lessons learned from our combat experience in various wars, and a research mentality that is so essential in trying to work out such important things as [war reserve material] planning factors, expected attrition in various war scenarios, etc.”23

To fix these problems, the Air Force systematically attempted to address the teaching of military history from the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to the highest echelon of the professional military education (PME) system, even putting “‘war’ back in the War College.” HAF, however, believed that these changes only affected a small minority of officers and thus could only transform the Air Force at an unacceptably incremental pace.24 Some believed that this historical inculcation must begin earlier and more rigorously and include multiple perspectives, with future officers receiving their first instruction in military history from professional historians to bring ROTC education up to the equivalent of that in the USAFA teaching.25 The Air Force worked not only to institutionalize the recognition of military history’s importance within itself but also to strengthen the teaching of military history at nearby civilian schools. By May 1982, the University of Tampa, located near MacDill AFB, had obliged the Air Force, adding a master’s in military studies.26

Once underway, Project Warrior came under the leadership of Lt Col John “Fred” Shiner, yet another PhD at HAF who had the intellectual background to imbue the program with a rigorous academic tone.27 Like Guilmartin, Shiner had a doctorate in military history as well as combat experience in Vietnam. He subsequently taught at the US Air Force Academy for eight years before receiving orders to Headquarters Air Force.28 Under his guidance, the program’s focal point on reviving military history intersected with overarching concerns about war with the Soviet Union. In seeking to blunt the USSR’s quantitative advantage, for example, Shiner and others hoped to gain an asymmetric edge by “outthink[ing]” their opponent.29

Obtaining this kind of intellectual development, though, required a multistep process. Shiner first envisioned Airmen passing through a “motivation phase” to “recognize themselves as mission-essential members of the Air Force team.” As translated for implementation by the head of Alaskan Air Command, for example, this meant that all individuals must recognize they were warriors whether they were fighter pilots or those responsible for calculating TDY pay.30 A practical way of implementing this idea entailed allowing Airmen from one section of the base to tour other areas to develop a deeper understanding of the base’s holistic mission.31

A subsequent phase—identification—aimed to assist Airmen in understanding the program’s deeper goals.32 Some of this no doubt lent itself to the hokey. An enthusiastic captain at Strategic Air Command’s (SAC) Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan, for example, planned to use a skit to explain the project.33 In a similar vein, attendees at SAC’s Noncommissioned Officer Academy could expect to be serenaded by motivating martial music at lunchtime.34 The Air Force Band contributed to these efforts by composing the song “Warriors in the Sky,” which complemented the project’s second poster of the same name of which 25,000 copies were printed.35

Shiner led a largely decentralized program. Project Warrior provided an array of resources ranging from books, ideas, discussion guides, posters, and movies. But Project Warrior left the actual implementation of the program to lower-level units as far down as the squadron level.36 It also, notably, had a voluntary nature, with the focal point at each base becoming the library.37 It stocked the books and war board games so essential to the project. Program organizers hoped that participants would meet monthly to discuss books, aided by discussion guides.38 Commander’s Calls also served as another key focal point for disseminating the project.39

At least in its initial phases, the implementation of Project Warrior suffered from budgetary limitations.40 This parsimony did not extend to ideas. The vice chief of staff, General Mathis, had set the stage for the program to take a broad and balanced look at military history versus a focus simply on military history since the invention of the airplane. As a result, Shiner and others helped to select a number of military classics ranging beyond debates about airpower. Project Warrior hoped participants would read Michael Howard’s War in European History, A. T. Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History, and Russell Weigley’s The American Way of War.41 Another set of readings introduced participants to each branch of the US military, providing a joint flavor years prior to the congressional imposition of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

This set of readings also treated US military airpower in a balanced manner, including a discussion guide stressing the “mixed record” of early US aviators while suggesting that participants might discuss the issues stemming from the Army Air Corps’ preference for strategic bombardment.42 One activity for discussion leaders encouraged consideration of multiple perspectives during the interwar period, with one taking the Army’s side and the other the Air Corps’ side.43 Elsewhere, the guide suggested that discussion leaders include World War II veterans to “debate whether tactical or strategic airpower contributed more to victory.”44 Such questions steered clear of a school answer. Project Warrior sought to intrigue and motivate, not to hamstring critical thinking.

Also notable in a period of revived emphasis on peer conflict with the Soviet Union, one discussion guide covering the Vietnam War to that period’s present time insisted that Airmen must “know all [they] can about airpower’s strengths and limitations in all types of conflicts,” especially the “most likely” ones of a people’s war that the program stressed at times. In underlining the continuing relevance of a people’s war, the guide insisted that the “most important” aspect of the Vietnam War was that of the people’s war, despite the reality that after 1943, the Air Force narrowed in on problems of using conventional airpower against North Vietnam.45 In providing more context to the discussion leader, the guide also emphatically stated that “massive aerial firepower was the least useful TAC [Tactical Air Command] Air tool in the counterinsurgency war.”46 The guide further took the entire US military to task, charging that few people in the American defense establishment appear concerned about counterinsurgency. As military people, we cannot afford to ignore what the past has to teach us. Because we have found limited war and counterinsurgency distasteful does not mean these kinds of conflicts have vanished. On the contrary, the Soviets and their allies are more likely to pursue these forms of warfare because of our distaste for them.47

Far from seeking to sweep the Vietnam War under the table, Project Warrior encouraged participants to wrestle with the challenge of using airpower effectively in unconventional war, insisting that the Air Force could not afford to ignore the possibility of using airpower in a future people’s war.

General Allen’s order to implement Project Warrior received a mixed reception as committees designated to implement the program in accordance with its decentralized and voluntary approach sprang up around the Air Force. In the case of the Alaskan Air Command (AAC), for example, some challenges in implementation can be seen. Twenty-two Airmen attended the committee's first meeting, including seven field-grade officers.48 Only seven of those officers showed up to the next meeting on 16 July, which had a total of 13 attendees and only one field-grade officer.49 The subsequent meeting included two field-grade officers, but attendance had dropped further to only 10 Airmen.50 Not only had enthusiasm waned, but the committee had maintained little continuity over the course of only a few months. This explains why its fifth meeting necessitated beginning with a “lengthy discussion” of Project Warrior’s purpose and intent.51 The committee also sought to avoid any unnecessary effort. Rather than take steps to establish war-gaming material prior to the materials’ arrival at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, for example, the committee instead determined to gauge interest after the games arrived.52

Simultaneously, the committee solicited feedback from the entire command, providing Airmen with the opportunity to vent their feelings about various matters. Members of the 1931st Communications Group, for example, groused about the need to “trim political control” of the military and grumbled that civilian jobs should be reassigned to Airmen.53 By contrast, the base’s command surgeon expressed his frustration at being the misunderstood support element. He hoped that Project Warrior might lead to the “appreciation of ‘the other fellow’s’ contribution.”54 Even more important than learning what other Airmen did, he suggested, was answering the more underlying question of why they did it. This question reinforced Project Warrior’s attempt to unify Airmen.55

It is hard to measure the program’s long-term effectiveness. In the AAC, there is some indication of Airmen’s enthusiasm. At the base’s first activity, more than 100 participants attended a retreat, while 150 clamored to attend a lunch at which a former prisoner of war spoke.56 By comparison, the 20th Missile Warning Squadron (MWS) held only five events over the course of six months in 1983. The events included three sports days, which featured a 1.5-mile run, a 100-yard dash, softball, and flickerball. The 20th MWS took a pragmatic approach to these activities, considering the days to be an opportunity to reinforce the importance of consistent exercise.57 By contrast and more in keeping with the tone of HAF, the AAC emphasized a “team” aspect. Throughout the Air Force, the emphasis on physical activity increased, ranging from small-weapons training to martial arts to sports, tailored to encourage teamwork more than showcase individual skill.58 The 20th MWS’s intellectual component also likely fell short of HAF’s expectations. Its two events consisted of a six-week seminar on Army aviation followed by a field trip to the Army Aviation Museum. Twelve people attended the seminar, with eight subsequently visiting the museum.59 Command attention, in addition to other factors, also helps explain better participation elsewhere. The initiatives of Air University’s commandant, Lt Gen Charles G. Cleveland, at Air University unsurprisingly paid more dividends than those of the 20th MWS. His “The Warrior Group” attracted 60 attendees to discuss military history.60 Air University also unsurprisingly had a greater per capita presence of those trained and interested in participating and facilitating these kinds of projects.

Elsewhere, some enlisted Airmen enthusiastically embraced the project. If the program originally had been intended to target officers, it found plenty of receptive enlisted members. SSgt James Marburger and TSgt Gerald K. Patton, Jr., of the 3300th Technical Training Wing at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, for example, envisioned and then produced a “This Day in Aviation” booklet chronicling Air Force history. They hoped their project would “support a student awareness” of Project Warrior.61 In a different but related vein, the Nellis Wargames Club met each Thursday evening. One enlisted Airman proudly shared his view of the benefits of war gaming, explaining that it provided a “chance for the crew chief to show a pilot he knows just as much about flying that aircraft as the pilot does. Not in the muscles [referring to actual flight experience] . . . but in the brain, the understanding.”62 The Airman even issued a challenge in the base newspaper seeking to attract pilots seeking to beat him.

A program intended to be voluntary still resulted in additional duties for a number of officers, even if unintentional. While no doubt intended to facilitate the sharing of ideas, for example, the requirement to provide a quarterly report of activities no doubt added frustration for officers overseeing the effort.63 The 932nd Aeromedical Airlift Group, in particular, did not hold back regarding the onerous burden it believed had been imposed upon it by Project Warrior. Its frustration surely must resonate with today’s Air Force and its desire for the removal of “queep.”64 The group’s extreme reluctance to participate in Project Warrior, as evidenced in its unit history, is worth quoting at length for its honesty and tone of extreme irritation and possible tribalism:

During the quarter, another project was arbitrarily imposed. . . . As with most programs in existence in the Air Force, a project officer had to be appointed. Due to the meager complement of full-time officers at the 932nd, Colonel Fairchild found it difficult to make an appointment. Colonel Dees already had a long list of additional duties including but not limited to the units complaints officer, real property (building) custodian, disaster preparedness program officer, to name a few. . . . Due to frequent absences because of flying duties, it was impractical to assign Project Warrior to Major Kessler or Captain Schwartz, or Major Stern who had a heavy workload. The appointment of a reservist would have been ideal, but due to limited availability, the program would not have received the proper attention. Although the individual had a huge workload, Colonel Fairchild appointed Lieutenant McAleer as the Project Officer.65

One can only imagine Lieutenant McAleer’s enthusiasm for implementing this “arbitrarily imposed” program. But for those required to develop a program however unenthusiastically, it proved far easier to focus on the program’s goals of motivation and identity rather than deep intellectual development. A common idea throughout the Air Force looked to the outward manifestation of an intensified warrior spirit, such as by wearing “utility” uniforms.66 Unlike today, Airmen only wore such uniforms during wartime. Thus, by leaving their “blues at home” for a day, decentralized organizers hoped to instill a mindset of readiness among Airmen.67

However, activities designed to increase motivation risked quickly denigrating into excessive implementation of military standards by overly stressing pomp and circumstance. Ideally, more frequent military ceremonies provided Airmen with “opportunities to lead.”68 In reality, though, some units simply interpreted Project Warrior as requiring additional military inspections to insure proper respect for military protocol, including “regular dormitory inspections.”69 Such an implementation directly undermined the spirit of Project Warrior as a voluntary program designed to transform attitudes.

Other ideas unintentionally undermined some aspects of the program because enthusiasm did not directly translate into outcomes aligned with the overarching vision for Project Warrior.70 Col James S. “Stu” Mosebey, for example, determined to bring back the A-2 flight jacket after seeing a World War II veteran wearing it. The jacket was eliminated after the Korean War. Finding his fellow fighter community so receptive to the idea that its members stated their willingness to purchase the jackets with their own money, Moseby ultimately sold his idea to the head of TAC, Gen Robert D. Russ.71 In this case, it was the enthusiastic determination of Airmen to readopt a piece of their heritage that superficially appears to be successful. But in other key ways, this idea epitomizes one of the Air Force’s central challenges in managing a cohesive narrative in a largely decentralized project. While the flight jacket’s readoption certainly celebrated a powerful piece of heritage that reinforced the narrative of war fighters, it also visually celebrated fighter pilots in a way that undermined the goal of unifying both the supported and the supporting elements of the institution.

Project Warrior was born of two officers who easily might have fallen sway to the technocratic lure of Air Force culture due to their interest in pursuing some of the most challenging technological puzzles of the early Cold War. Instead, they embraced the military art when they achieved the highest positions in the Air Force. Of course, they did not act alone. Project Warrior received impetus from the scarring losses of the Vietnam War, which provoked more deep thought and creativity among Airmen than has been recognized in many quarters, challenging the Air Force to think more deeply and critically about military history.72

Allen eschewed a highly structured and centralized approach to implementing Project Warrior, convinced that the deepest learning could occur only voluntarily and after Airmen began identifying deeply with their institution.73 Unfortunately, Allen’s vision aimed too high, containing too many self-conflicting threads, as the gravitational pull of well-meaning Airmen dragged the program in too many dead-end directions. The program ultimately failed to meet Allen’s original vision of something that might “provide incentives and command support for the study of military science” rather than adding to the “already demanding workload of our officer corps.”74 Also, the project’s intellectual component demonstrated far more cohesiveness than the cultural-building element.

Even more damning, the Air University Review editor complained almost two years after the implementation of Project Warrior that the Air Force still failed to engage fervently and enthusiastically enough in serious thinking about the future of war.75 By contrast, he pointed to “active” debates on the pages of the Marine Corps Gazette and Military Review.76 Others took issue with the spirit of Project Warrior altogether, charging that it veered too much in one direction, encouraging “war-fighting characteristics based on values such as courage and loyalty but downplay[ing] management and technical specialization.”77

The Air University Review editor went one step further in comparing Air Force officers to Army and Marine officers and finding them wanting. In further challenging his audience, he cited the Air Force’s assumption that it “had better educated and more motivated officers than the Soviets.”78 Instead, he sought to challenge those beliefs. The Air Force had to ask whether it placed too much emphasis on winning through a reliance on “technicians” of war.79 This reliance remains a problem today, particularly in midcareer officers who often struggle to wrestle deeply with the operational and strategic levels of war because they hold so tightly to the Air Force’s demonstrated tactical excellence. As General Mathis lamented in 1981, there was no “real equivalent” or focal point akin to the Air Corps Tactical School, no “spirit of inquiry” that had “carried us through” World War II.80 Technically, Air University, most specifically, and Air Education and Training Command should carry that torch most consistently.

Former CSAF Gen Michael Dugan once explained that the Air Force was “producing a generation of illiterate truck drivers.”81 Air University has made tremendous efforts to prevent that from happening by investing significantly in its faculty and its resident and distance programs. But those efforts can only go so far to fix the anti-intellectual bent of the institution as a whole.

In 2020, then, it is worth asking how deeply that “spirit” animates the entire Air Force today, just as Allen and Mathis sought to inculcate it almost four decades ago, and how that perspective can be fully integrated into squadron life. While the Air Force has fully embraced technical innovation, it has not pursued knowledge or ideas with the same passion.82 The next chief of staff can take a strong stand in favor of ideas from the beginning, seeking to fully integrate Air University into all the Air Force does.

By making Project Warrior voluntary, CSAF Allen removed some of the impetus for establishing an enduring intellectual pursuit in the Air Force. Ideas worth considering for a renewed Project Warrior include how to bridge some of the divide between resident and distant PME to make PME more continual while considering how more officers can receive resident education. Another is how to create enduring communities of learning from across Air Force communities that foster lasting relationships that continue over one’s entire career. And, of course, the new CSAF has the easiest opportunity of all by leading by example, using social media to model continued intellectual engagement.

Dr. Heather P. Venable

Dr. Venable (BA, Texas A&M; MA, University of Hawaii; PhD, Duke University) is an associate professor of military and security studies in the Department of Airpower at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College. Previously serving as a visiting professor at the US Naval Academy, she taught naval and Marine Corps history. She has written the book How the Few Became the Proud: The Making of the Marine Corps’ Mythos, 1974–1918. She has also contributed articles about airpower and the current Air Force to numerous online publications.


1 Gen David L. Goldfein, USAF, “CSAF Letter to Airmen,” Air Force News, 9 August 2016, For a more in-depth discussion, see Maj Gen Stephen L. Davis, USAF, “A Model of Air Force Squadron Vitality,” Air & Space Power Journal 32, no. 4 (Winter 2018),

2 Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Developing Today’s Joint Officers for Tomorrow’s Ways of War,” accessed 30 July 2020, For one example of anti-intellectualism, see the mobility community’s inability to attend more than one in-residence course in 11/12M, Mobility Officer Career Development Guidance. The mobility community also sought to create a track for pilots that “reduc[ed] developmental requirements.” See Air Mobility Command Public Affairs, “AMC Announces Aviator Technical Track Beta Test Program,” 24 July 2018, The program has since been canceled. See also Dan Hughes, “Professors in the Colonels’ World,” in Military Culture and Education: Current Intersections of Academic and Military Cultures, ed. Douglas Higbee (New York: Routledge, 2016), 159. For a historical precedent, see Col Dennis M. Drew, “Educating Air Force Officers: Observations after 20 Years at Air University,” Airpower Journal (Summer 1997): 37–45,

3 “Project Warrior,” attachment to Gen Lew Allen Jr. to ALMAJCOM-SOA, 18 September 1981, History of the Air Training Command, 1981, vol. 21, Supporting Documents, K220.01, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA).

4 Capt Ron Fuchs, “Battling Back to the Basics,” Airman Magazine, April 1983, 14–19.

5 Helen Lee Bouygues, “U.S. Military Leaders Want Soldiers to Think Critically, Not Just Follow Orders,” Forbes, 10 January 2019,

6 Maj Perry D. Luckett, "Technology and Modern Leadership: Charles Lindbergh, A Case Study,” Air University Review 34 (September-October 1983): 64–71.

7 MSgt Russell Petcoff, “Former Chief of Staff Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery,” Air Force News, 23 March 2010,

8 Col Royce U. Jorgensen, message to HQ AAC Staff et al., 23 August 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA; and General Allen to ALMAJCOM-SOA, History of the Air Training Command, AFHRA.

9 Fuchs, “Battling Back to the Basics”; and Allen to ALMAJCOM-SOA.

10 Fuchs, 14–19.

11 Viktoriya Fedorchak, Understanding Contemporary Air Power (New York: Routledge, 2020), 32.

12 Gen B. L. Davis to Lt Gen Stanley M. Umstead, Jr., 17 February 1981, History of the Air Training Command, 1981, vol. XXI, Supporting Documents, K220.01, AFHRA. For others urging a similarly broad study of history to avoid a “parochial viewpoint,” see Maj Price T. Bingham, “Professionalism in the Air Force,” Air University Review 32, no. 4 (July–August 1981): 98. Since Bingham was stationed at HAF at the time his article was published, it appears to have been highly shaped by Project Warrior thinking. For his background, see Eric Dietrich, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 4 May 2016,

13 Col Kenneth J. Alnwick and Lt Col John R. Guilmartin, Jr., Trip Report to AU/CC, 23 February 1981, History of the Air Training Command, 1981, vol. XXI, Supporting Documents, K220.01, AFHRA.

14 This can be seen in early discussions between Air University and HAF. See Alnwick and Guilmartin, Trip Report to AU/CC; and Allen to ALMAJCOM-SOA.

15 Lt Col Dennis M. Drew, “Military Art and the American Tradition: The Vietnam Paradox Revisited,” Air University Review 34, no. 2 (January–February 1983): 31–34; and Lt Col John Guilmartin, “Changing the Guard,” Air University Review 34, no. 3 (March–April 1983), preface, n.p.

16 Bingham, “Professionalism in the Air Force,” 95–101.

17 Fuchs, “Battling Back to the Basics,” 14–19; and Maj Richard A. Gabriel, USAR, “Cincinnatus Inside Out: Part 1,” Air University Review 32, no. 5 (July–August 1981): 96–97.

18 Gen Thomas M. Ryan, Jr., USAF, “The Education Factor,” Air Force Magazine, February 1982, 39–41. Also see Maj Richard A. Gabriel, “Professionalism Versus Managerialism in Vietnam,” Air University Review 33, no. 2 (January–February 1981): 77–87.

19 Lt Gen Charles G. Cleveland, “Professionalism and the Air University Review,” Air University Review 35, no. 2 (January–February 1984), preface, n.p.; and Alnwick and Guilmartin, Trip Report to AU/CC.

20 Dennis E. Showalter, “Two Different Worlds?: The Military Historian and the U.S. Air Force,” Air University Review 31, no. 4 (May-June 1980): 29–37.

21 Editor, “History and the Profession of Arms,” Air University Review 21, no. 5 (July–August 1980): 46.

22 Maj Gen I. B. Holley, Jr., USAFR, “The Battle of Marathon,” Air University Review 35, no. 5 (July–August 1980): 46–50.

23 Maj Gen Perry M. Smith, message to Lt Gen Charles G. Cleveland, 2 February 1982, History of Air University, 1 January–31 December 1982, vol. III, Supporting Documents, K239.01, AFHRA.

24 Lt Col Walt Kross, memorandum for General Mathis, subject: Military Doctrine and Concepts Program, 23 February 1981, History of the Air Training Command, 1981, vol. XXI, Supporting Documents, K220.01, AFHRA. For a similar initiative in Air Training Command, see Gen Thomas M. Ryan, Jr., to Gen Lew Allen, Jr., History of the Air Training Command, 1981, vol. XXI, Supporting Documents, K220.01, AFHRA.

25 “Improving History Instruction in AFROTC,” n.d., History of Air University, 1 January–31 December 1982, vol. III, Supporting Documents, K239.01, AFHRA.

26 Project Warrior Newsletter 2, 28 May 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

27 Gen Jerome F. O’Malley initially directed the program before replacing Mathis as vice chief of staff upon Mathis’s retirement a few weeks before Allen’s retirement on 1 June 1982. Mathis spent the rest of his life serving his community, establishing a nonprofit community that provided assistance and summer camps for children with cancer and people with other disabilities.

28 John L. Frisbee, ed., Makers of the United States Air Force (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1987), 332.

29 Fuchs, “Battling Back to the Basics,” 14–19. This belief infused some aspects of Project Warrior programming. See Warrior Discussion Guide I-A, 1-1, K160.155-4, AFHRA.

30 Lt Gen Lynwood E. Clark, USAF, to HQ AAC Staff et al., 15 April 1982, in 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA. Also see Maj David W. Keith, “The Warrior and the Pachyderm,” Air University Review 35, no. 2 (January–February 1984): 85–89.

31 Attachment 1, Lt Col Rodney L. Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al., 14 June 1982, in 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

32 Fuchs, “Battling Back to the Basics,” 14–19.

33 Fuchs, 14–19.

34 Fuchs, 14–19. Also see Attachment 1, Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al. This list of ways to implement Project Warrior considered music to be “one of the most powerful tools that can be used to generate the warfighting spirit in personnel.”

35 Project Warrior Newsletter 2, 28 May 1982.

36 “Project Warrior Takes Shape,” Air Force Magazine, June 1982, 92–93; and F. Clifton Berry, Jr., “Project Warrior,” Air Force Magazine, August 1982,

37 Fuchs, “Battling Back to the Basics,” 14–19.

38 Directorate of Plans, “Project Warrior Discussion Guide II-A,” iii, K168.155-2, 1984, AFHRA.

39 Directorate of Plans, “Project Warrior Professional Studies Support Plan,” K168.155-1 C.1, AFHRA.

40 Col Ralph E Adams, Response to Letter from Dr. Kohn, 19 January 1982, History of Air University, 1 January–31 December 1982, vol. III, Supporting Documents, K239.01, AFHRA; Lt Gen C. G. Cleveland to Dr. Richard H. Kohn, 27 January 1982, History of Air University, 1 January–31 December 1982, vol. III, Supporting Documents, K239.01, AFHRA; and Richard H. Kohn to Maj Gen David L. Gray, 3 March 1982, History of Air University, 1 January–31 December 1982, vol. III, Supporting Documents, K239.01, AFHRA.

41 Warrior Discussion Guide II-A, 168.155-2, 1984, AFHRA.

42 Warrior Discussion Guide 1-A, 3-1 and 3-2, K160.155-4, AFHRA.

43 Warrior Discussion Guide 1-A, 3-6.

44 Warrior Discussion Guide 1-A, 4-7.

45 Warrior Discussion Guide 1-A, 6-1; and Brian Laslie, The Air Force Way of War: U.S. Tactics and Training after Vietnam (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015), 32.

46 Warrior Discussion Guide 1-A, 6-2.

47 Warrior Discussion Guide 1-A, 6-5.

48 “Attendees for Project Warrior Meeting, 2 July 1982,” 12 July 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA. The 20th Missile Warning Squadron took a somewhat more conservative approach, establishing a committee of one senior officer serving as an advisor and five young officers and five young NCOs. Project Warrior Progress Report, 20 June 1982, in History of 20th Missile Warning Squadron, 1 April–30 June 1982, K-SQ-MW-20-HI, AFHRA.

49 “Attendees,” 16 July 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

50 “Project Warrior Meeting Attendance,” 13 August 1982, 12 July 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA. A subsequent meeting reverted to one field-grade officer although one additional person attended. “Attendance List” [15 September 1982], 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

51 Col Royce U. Jorgensen to HQ AAC Staff et al., 30 September 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

52 Jorgensen to HQ AAC Staff et. al.

53 1931st Communications Group Inputs, in 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

54 Interestingly, he explained that this mindset developed in part because of ignorance but also perhaps because of “our demonstrated attitude.” Col Warren L. Carpenter, USAF, to XPRP (Maj John Mitchell), 1 June 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

55 Carpenter to XPRP.

56 Col Royce U. Jorgensen to HQ USAF/XOXID, 27 October 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

57 History of 20th Missile Warning Squadron, 1 January–1 May 1983, K-SQ-MW-20-HI, January–May 1983, AFHRA.

58 Attachment 1, Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al. Also see HQ 8AF Suggestions, in History of 20th Missile Warning Squadron, 1 April–30 June 1982, K-SQ-MW-20-HI, AFHRA.

59 History of 20th Missile Warning Squadron, 1 January–1 May 1983, K-SQ-MW-20-HI, AFHRA.

60 Lt Gen Charles G. Cleveland to Gen Thomas M. Ryan, 1982, History of Air University, 1 January–1 December 1982, vol. II, Supporting Documents, K239.01, AFHRA. Handwritten notes in the margin, presumably written by General Ryan, show his clear interest in General Cleveland’s various reports on Project Warrior.

61 Lt Gen Harley A. Hughes to All Air Force Members, 18 September 1985, K168-100-7 (DC), AFHRA.

62 Nancy Weber, “Wargames Shape Winners,” in Project Warrior Professional Studies Support Plan, 01125915, AFHRA.

63 Gen B. L. Davis, USAF to 8th AF/CC, 6 April 1982, History of 20th Missile Warning Squadron, 1 April–30 June 1982, K-SQ-MW-20-HI, AFHRA.

64 See, for example, Stephen Losey, “In War on ‘Queep,’ Air Force Aims to Give Squadron Commanders New Weapons,” Air Force Times, 18 June 2018,

65 History of 932nd Aeromedical Airlift Group (Associate), Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, 1 July 1982–30 September 1982, K-GP-MED-932-HI, AFHRA.

66 Attachment 1, Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al.

67 Attachment 1, Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al.

68 Attachment 1, Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al.

69 Attachment 1, Hinkle to All AAC Staff et al.; and CMSgt Jimmie B. Lavender to HQ AAC/XPRP, 16 April 1982, 1982 History, K484.01, January–December 1982, v. 4, AFHRA.

70 See, for example, the initially “positive” reaction of Airmen at Vance AFB in “History of the 71st Flying Training Wing, Vol. 1–Narrative, 1 July–31 December 1982,” K-WG-71-Hi, V-1, AFHRA.

71 C. V. Glines, “The Jacket that Lives Forever,” Air Force Magazine, September 1993,

72 Maj Gen I. B. Holley, Jr., USAFR, “The Battle of Marathon,” Air University Review 21, no. 5 (July–August 1980): 46–50.

73 Air University had attempted some similar approaches and admitted it had only “limited” success. See Allen to ALMAJCOM-SOA.

74 Allen to ALMAJCOM-SOA.

75 Some, by contrast, believed that Project Warrior necessitated reviving a “discussion about how we fought in Vietnam.” See Lt Col Patrick O. Clifton, “The Vietnam ‘Victory,’ ” Air University Review 35, no. 4 (May–June 1984): 91–93.

76 “The Next War,” editorial, Air University Review 35, no. 4 (May–June 1984): 2–3.

77 Maj Perry D. Luckett, “Technology and Modern Leadership: Charles Lindbergh, a Case Study,” Air University Review 34 (September–October 1983): 64–71.

78 For an Air Force officer similarly stressing his Soviet counterparts’ grounding in military history, see Bingham, “Professionalism,” 98.

79 “The Next War,” 3. Also see Maj David W. Keith, “The Warrior and the Pachyderm,” Air University Review 35, no. 2 (January–February 1984): 85–89,

80 Alnwick and Guilmartin, “Trip Report to AU/CC.”

81 Quoted in Col Dennis M. Drew, “Educating Air Force Officers: Observations,” 37–45.

82 Jacob Lokshin, “The Moonshot Formula: Rediscovering Innovation in the US Air Force,” Strategy Bridge, 16 March 2020,

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