Trading places

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A combat veteran and a senior leader in Air Force Special Operations Command made a trip home April 6 to provide insight on the command and share lessons learned spanning 23 years of service during the Reserve Officer Training Corps’ annual dining out here.

Col. Nathan Green, commander of Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center, Hurlburt Field, Fla., spoke to more than 125 cadets and their guests during the engagement.

A University of Alabama graduate, Green is now is now in charge of the flying and ground training for America’s Air Commando’s as well as AFSOC’s Irregular Warfare Group.

“It’s good to be back and exciting to feel the energy and enthusiasm of Detachment 010,” said Green. “This is a special place for me. This program gave me everything I needed to begin my journey with the Air Force.”

Green was a Distinguished Graduate and served as the cadet wing commander in his final year with the program. He completed undergraduate pilot training from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas in September 1996. Afterwards, he embarked on a career that was spent largely in special operations where he has flown numerous aircraft including the AC-130H/U, MC-130J, C-145, C-146, CV-22 and PC-12.

The Florence, Ala., native used the banquet to impart words of wisdom on the future leaders encouraged graduating cadets to expect to deal with adversity when entering the Air Force and to always be ready when opportunity calls.

“The world’s not always fair,” said Green. “Things don’t always work out the way you think they will, but if you keep your chin up and persevere, I promise you there are great things in store for you.”

“I’ve been where you are,” he said. “I never thought I would end up in Air Force Special Operations when I was sitting where you are 23 years ago. I wanted to go into the Air Force, fly jets for a while and then go into the astronaut program. That didn’t work out for me. I ended up in special operations, and I’m so grateful to have had that opportunity.”

One of the most important lessons Cadet Green learned shortly after commissioning was the importance of being an expert at his job. He explained how eager he was to become an aircraft commander on the AC-130 shortly after pilot training. Yet, as one of only two lieutenants in the squadron, he found the path to upgrading slow and arduous.

“I remember being a co-pilot for three years (when the normal timeframe for upgrading is 12 months),” he said. “It was difficult, but looking back, that time allowed me to become a better pilot. So be patient and use those early years to become and expert at your job whatever it is—financial analyst, a cop, a doc or a maintenance officer. People will notice, and they’ll want to follow you to learn what you know.”

Green also encouraged cadets to always embrace opportunities to learn, to make Professional Military Education a priority and to take time to help others achieve their goals when you see them struggling.

Cadet Jeffery Echevarrias, currently in charge of the cadet corps, was honored to have the Detachment 10 alumnus speak to the group at the Hotel Capstone—site of the colonel’s final dining out more than 20 years ago.

“It’s always special to have Det. 010 alumni come back and visit,” said Echevarrias. “It was insightful and inspiring to have someone from special operations offer an inside view of the career field.”

Echevarrias said Green’s remarks made it clear the future lieutenants would face challenges and occasional setbacks but also their ROTC cadre has prepared them for what lies ahead.

“The main takeaway from Colonel Green’s comments was to always have a goal in mind but to understand things may not always work out the way you initially hoped or planned,” said Echevarrias. He made it clear “no matter where you end up in the Air Force, there is something for everyone.”

Green stayed behind and visited with many cadets long after the festivities concluded making a favorable impression on the group of future officers.

“It was also eye opening to see a Det. 010 alumnus reach the upper echelon of Air Force leadership,” said Echevarrias. “It certainly increased the immense pride we all have in Detachment 010 and the University of Alabama.”