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2018 – General Walter Kross, USAF (Ret)

Gen Walter Kross, USAF, Retired

General Kross’s 34 years of selfless service and sacrifice, tireless commitment and contributions, distinguished achievements, and unparalleled leadership to our Nation, our Air Force and Air Mobility are nothing short of remarkable! Without question, General Walt Kross has demonstrated exceptional and sustained performance in the advancement of Air Mobility…Supporting Mobility Airmen; Preserving Our Culture; a Strengthening Our Bonds! On a scale of one to ten, let’s be honest…General Walt Kross is off the charts! His peerless leadership and vison at ALL levels: Squadron, Wing, Numbered Air Force, Air Staff, MAJCOM, Joint Staff and Unified/Combat Command…has been truly outstanding. A brilliant mentor who excelled in pivotal, pivotal leadership roles, building teams, taking care of Airmen, forging mobility doctrine, and developing and implementing processes have made Air Mobility a highly respected and indispensable ingredient in America’s arsenal. This visionary molded the Air Mobility 21st Century enterprise, setting it up for success! He is truly worthy of the 2018 Airlift/Tanker Association Hall of Fame Award.

 

Leadership and Job Performance.

 

General Walt Kross is without question one of the Top 25 military leaders of his esteemed generation! He is a PhD in all things Mobility! His leadership opportunities stemmed from his impeccable career job performance at every level. A consummate team-player, General Kross understood early on the best way to get a job done was to leverage the collective talents and knowledge of the Team. He quickly established a reputation during his career as an expert problem solver and forward-thinking visionary. This gave him the good fortune to serve in the most demanding and highly visible leadership positions in the Department of Defense. Always mindful of the critical balance between the imperatives of mission and the responsibility to lead his people, General Kross possessed an uncanny ability to deliver results while always crediting the team! He would routinely be the first to tell you he didn’t deserve the credit for mission success. He simply provided thoughtful guidance, set the expectations, identified the resources, and cleared the way for his people to tackle the mission and succeed! If you asked anyone who ever had the opportunity to work for General Kross they would say he is the epitome of leadership. Of note, General Kross was the first USTRANSCOM Commander to have previously served in USTRANSCOM. He served as the J3/J4 (Ops/Logistics Director) overseeing the Defense Transportation System during DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, which included the deployment of over 1,000,000 troops and the movement of over 900,000 tons of cargo by air. USTRANSCOM’s first major test was literally a “trial by fire”! USTRANSCOM, by its performance, established a trust and confidence that would endure into the 21st Century. For his leadership and actions, he was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and highest praise from JCS Chairman Colin Powell, CINCCENT General Schwarzkopf and CINCTRANS General H.T. Johnson.

 

 

 

Significant Contributions of this Mission (Leader) to Advancement of Air Mobility

 

With General Walt Kross at the helm, Air Mobility supported U.S. National interests in countless crises contingencies and continuous conflicts at home and abroad. For more than a decade, General Kross introduced readiness initiatives and processes, upgraded mobility assets and infrastructure, trained and prepared his airmen and Commands for the very real and expected security challenges of the 21st Century! History will no doubt look back and recognize the significant contributions of General Kross in the 1990s and compare him to another Mobility Hall of Famer…Lieutenant General William H. Tunner and his innovative solutions that propelled Air Mobility through the end of the 20th century.

 

General Kross worked tirelessly to convince the Combatant Commanders to respect and consider the high-demand-low-density aspects of Air Mobility’s mobility strategic and tactical assets. He developed processes whereby Combatant Commands would coordinate their training and exercise schedules to optimize AMC’s precious resources. This effort strengthened relationships with Combatant Commands and their Components and provided quality training and more realistic tests of DoD’s wartime capabilities.

 

During General Kross’s command tours in Air Mobility, he directly impacted the way we go to war while addressing planned manpower reductions directed by the Defense Reform Initiative. General Kross directed the reorganization and consolidation of AMC’s deployable Airlift Control Squadrons and elements by standing up Air Mobility Operational Groups/Squadrons at McGuire and Travis AFBs. These organizations eventually transformed into the Contingency Support Groups/Squadrons which have performed amazingly for over 20 years in countless contingencies, disasters and conflicts. He was a key proponent for the Phoenix Reach crossflow program, where aviators transferred between airlift and tanker missions, improving their knowledge and respect for each demanding mission.

 

General Kross realized future conflicts would require improvements to the enroute system and associated material handling equipment. He spearheaded the modernization effort and procurement of efficient cargo loading dock systems and cargo loaders which defined the requirements for the Tunner 60K and Halvorsen 45K loading systems. General Kross determined that the mobility enterprise and enroute system required modern equipment that could speed up delivery of troops and their critical warfighter assets and supplies.

 

Today, Air Mobility Command maintains 318 60K Tunners and 264 45K Halvorsens around the globe! These game-changing capabilities have unquestionably contributed to the successful deployment, support, and redeployment for a myriad of post 9-11 crises, contingencies, and the Global War on Terror!

 

General Kross also directed improvements, upgrades, and investment, in our airfield and airbase security posture. He directed the creation of a Force Protection staff to coordinate security and intelligence to support the mobility mission. Fences and barriers that had been taken down in the 1980s/90s, were replaced in light of emerging threats. General Kross obtained funding support for AMC installation force protection after testifying before Congressional Committees. These efforts jump-started AMC’s force protection program and readied AMC and our Airmen for the post 9-11 world order.

 

General Kross kept the C-17 multi-year procurement program on track, convincing many of his fellow Combatant Commanders to support the requirement to procure additional 80 C-17s. His testimony before the Armed Services Committees justified not only additional C-17s, but over $2B in FYDP in modernization funding for the C-5 and KC-135 fleets to meet Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) airspace compliance requirements. These modernization programs would allow AMC’s fleets to operate unrestricted in and along the prime global air traffic routes, saving time and fuel in support of U.S global interests.

 

General Kross also paid particular interest to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) commercial cargo and passenger capability during his time in AMC! He strengthened the program by ensuring required CRAF capabilities were met through streamlined contracts and business practices. Additionally, he employed commercial carriers in day-to-day AMC missions which kept both CRAF partners and the Air Mobility enroute system prepared and ready to handle all requirements and capabilities. Furthermore, he realized by leveraging commercial industry partners, who were investing in modern fuel-efficient aircraft, AMC could make progress on its fleet modernization programs with augmentation from commercial carriers. By leveraging CRAF, he could focus on training and readiness and preserve critical aircraft service life for future conflicts, natural disasters, or humanitarian crises. Through personal effort, the CRAF readiness program and carrier commitment flourished and went from a deficit in capability to exceeding the wartime requirements.

 

Aware of the pending Y2K challenges (Year 2000 Information Technology), General Kross also directed reviews and analysis of USTRANSCOM’s and AMC’s C4I systems. USTRANSCOM and AMC published the Y2K plan in the Fall of 1997, directing implementation and funding to support AMC units in their corrective efforts to prevent any mission degradation or interruption at the turn of the 21st Century. His foresight and initiative put AMC on a perfect vector and Y2K became a non-event. General Kross was a pioneer of automation in AMC and DoD! The Global Transportation Network (GTN) achieved Initial Operational Capability in Fall 1997, giving all AMC and DoD customers greater visibility and ability to manage their growing transportation requirements.

 

Under his careful watch, USTRANSCOM and AMC combined the Services operational support mission (C-12, C-21 and others) into a joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC). This action streamlined operations support scheduling and ensured standardization of VIP travel across DoD and the Services.

 

Significant Changes to the Air Mobility Mission, Culture and History

 

Has the Air Mobility Mission, Culture, and History flourished, as a result of General Kross’s commitment, direction, and leadership? It ABSOLUTELY did! As AMC Commander, he initiated significant Mobility focus, establishing 1996 as the “Year of Enroute System” in order to address and align readiness requirements of the Air Mobility enroute system to support the 2000-2005 National Security Strategy. General Kross secured commitments from USEUCOM and USPACOM to allocate Defense Transportation dollars to modernize/ improve vital enroute support facilities, to include fuel systems and capacities, enroute housing/billeting, command and control, and logistics support equipment. General Kross acquired over $407 million, a 200% increase in funding, to improve and modernize vital AMC enroute infrastructure. He achieved this by leveraging DoD, Service, and Mobility Enhancement funding. This investment proved to be a critical factor at over 18 enroute stations like Ramstein AB GE, and Moron AB Spain, and Kuwait International. These vast improvements Gen Kross initiated throughout the enroute system, greatly enhanced U.S. power projection and operational readiness to deploy forces anywhere on the globe. It almost seems as if he was clairvoyant in light of the events and commitments after 9-11! Without those improvements our national security interests could not have been protected and served as successfully.

 

General Kross also designated 1998 as the “Year of the Enlisted Force”, recognizing the significant work, outstanding contributions, and leadership of our Enlisted Corps and sacrifices made by their families. Programs like the Enlisted Career Aviator addressed declining retention, stabilized AMC’s enlisted aircrew force, and created cross-training opportunities for career aviators between airlift and tanker platforms. The “Year of the Enlisted” also focused on stabilizing support for air mobility enlisted programs, addressed housing and dormitory standards, enlisted recognition programs, improved enlisted PME, and Airmen Leadership programs at all AMC bases. For these initiatives, General Kross received the Air Mobility Command Order of the Sword in 1998 prior to his retirement.

 

General Kross was an outspoken proponent and supporter in the U.S. Air Force for preserving Heritage and History. In 1997, he declared the Dover AFB Air Museum, “The AMC Museum”. Today, the AMC Museum is a benchmark and contains the finest collection of AMC historical aircraft, exhibits and collections. It also serves as the repository and archives for all things related to Mobility history! This includes many of Airlift Tanker Association heritage videos, archives and collections. General Kross donated his collection of over 4,000 military challenge coins to the AMC Museum.

 

Noteworthy Accomplishments and/or Extraordinary Multiple Impacts

 

General Kross became the USTRANSCOM and AMC Commander after two demanding years as Director of the Joint Staff. He was the hands down pick by the SECDEF, CJCS and CSAF, destined to be the Commander of USTRANSCOM and AMC! To paraphrase, Chief of Staff General Ron Fogleman, “AMC should always select a leader with Walt Kross’s credentials.” General Kross took command and stressed three themes at USTRANSCOM and AMC: Readiness; Modernization; Process Improvement! His focus on these three themes manifested into a mobility and transportation system that has proven itself again and again as the nation’s decisive asymmetric advantage in any contingency crisis and war!

 

Today, because of General Walt Kross, DoD customers have greater visibility and trust in the Mobility system and its capabilities. Our Mobility airmen have equipment, modern tools, facilities, processes and procedures that allow them to support and defend our nation. The organizational changes General Kross instituted have endured and prevailed in the most trying of circumstances. The impacts touch every aspect of the Mobility mission and culture and have significantly contributed to the advancement of Air Mobility while Supporting Mobility Airmen and Preserving Our Culture!

 

Summary

 

General Walt Kross is definitely the Quintessential Mobility Warrior! He has continued to selflessly contribute to our Air Mobility legacy, assuming key leadership roles in the Department of Defense, Industry, and Defense Industry Associations.  General Kross served as Chairman of the Secretary of Defense CEO Panel helping share/exchange better business practices and knowledge between DoD an Industry. He also served as Co-Chair of the National Defense Transportation Association for seven years and received the prestigious National Defense Leadership Award in 1998.

 

General Kross served as Chairman of the Airlift/Tanker Association for Five Years 2008 – 2013. The only other A/TA Chairman to serve longer was General Dutch Huyser from 1986-1991. General Kross inspired us for 5 ½ years! He guided A/TA through the stormy waters caused by the 2013 sequestration and continued to serve as Nominating

Committee Chair in subsequent years. General Walt Kross’s selfless commitment to our Airlift/ Tanker Association, tireless support of the Global Mobility Mission, enrichment of our proud heritage, and extraordinary endorsement of our Mobility Airmen inspired so many who serve and excel every day in support of our nation’s interests!

 

General Kross is also one of the few general officers of his generation who wrote and published a book. Inspired by his 158 combat missions in Vietnam, and the award of three Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs), the book titled, Splash One: Air Victory over Hanoi, published in April 1991, describes the air-to-air war over Hanoi code named Operation BOLO. The book describes the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing Commander’s three key principles of fighter combat: lead from the front; be prepared; and think ahead of the enemy. He has lived by these principles his entire career.