Opinion Columns & Blogs

Larry Walker: Middle Georgia salutes Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield

“Whatever the consequences to himself personally, Ewell had to disregard the instructions of Lee or Jackson. The decision had to be made on the realities, not on the personalities.”

-- Douglas S. Freeman

“Lee’s Lieutenants”

Does he look like a general, this Bruce Litchfield, lieutenant general of the United States Air Force? He with the three stars and the command of the Air Force Sustainment Center, Air Force Material Command, with a $16 billion dollar annual responsibility (just a little less than what the budget of the state of Georgia was when I left the legislature in 2004). Does he look like a general?

Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States of America, and his right arm, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, looked like generals, as did Gens. Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. Perry’s Courtney Hodges did, also. And what about George Custer? Indeed, did Custer look like a general? And, what about Gen. Bruce Litchfield?

Ulysses S. Grant did not particularly look like a general, but he was, every inch of him, a general. Lincoln gave him the resources which, coupled with Grant’s courage and determination, made him, despite his looks, a great general.

I met Litchfield over a year ago and learned quickly that he was a person who meant business and intended to do his job and do it correctly. I also learned that he had a keen sense of humor coupled with a love of our country and a desire to see Robins Air Force Base do its job and do it well. He also had a soaring intellect. It was an encouraging, and ultimately a winning, combination.

First, as to the humor -- we were at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) conference at Robins. The presidents of the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern University, along with representatives from our Georgia Technical Colleges, Mercer University, Georgia College and other educational institutions were there, probably at least 150 people in all. All stayed all day.

We had been in the conference for several hours and everyone was tired. Litchfield had said several times, “engineering study is hard and lots of students don’t want to do it.” For some inexplicable reason, I blurted out, “Law school was hard, too,” to which Litchfield responded, “I wouldn’t have made a good lawyer,” and to which I retorted, “Yeah, but you would’ve made a great judge.” He laughed. Frankly, I think that this was the moment we went from being acquaintances to friends. And, yes, he would have made a great judge, and he would’ve been great at anything else he had undertaken.

Thanks, Gen. Litchfield, for making Robins Air Force Base work better. Not because you were trying to save the base, but because you were trying to help save this country.

Thanks for working with people, for making them see the big picture, and for making them care. Thanks for firm discipline and a no-nonsense approach, but also for treating everyone with dignity and respect. This was right and it has greatly helped.

Thanks for giving us Gen. Walter Lindsley and for keeping Col. Chris Hill -- two good men who have helped you make your plan work. And there are many others.

And, thanks for these good times, times we will never forget. Meals enjoyed, covey rises in front of a brace of good dogs and time spent in a small boat catching big fish.

Does Gen. Bruce Litchfield look like a general? This Bruce Litchfield who made decisions based on realities and not personalities. Not that it matters, except to those who know little, but the answer is a resounding “yes,” or, as they would say in the United States Air Force, “Yes, sir!”

If MacArthur looked like a general, Litch­field does also, because they favor significantly, especially when MacArthur was young. And, in his uniform, with the three stars, this 6 feet 2 inches tall soldier, who made decisions based on realities, was every inch a leader and a soldier, the kind of general who has made this a great country.

We Middle Georgians are not there yet, and we will never “be there.” But, we and Robins Air Force Base are so much stronger and secure than we were two years ago. For this, we all owe Litchfield more than we can ever repay. So, simply it is: “Thank you, Gen. Litchfield. You made us deal in realities. You made us stronger. We will miss you. We hope you come back often.”

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry, Georgia. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly, and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.