Blue Skies, Lion 01

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One of the finest leaders in the Air Force retired this week. Brig. Gen. Blaine Holt inspired admiration from peers, undying loyalty from juniors, and respect (sometimes accompanied by healthy apprehension) from superiors. Throughout his career, he was widely known to be one of the most thoughtful, articulate, and intellectually active officers in the service, possessed of a rare and enviable commitment to speaking truth to power.

Blaine was and is a lion of a leader. Not without irony, he once commanded the Lions of the 16th Airlift Squadron … a merry band of C-17 aviators who swear by him to this day and would gladly follow him over a cliff. He exemplified the idea of taking care of people as the key to getting them to take care of the mission. He managed to buck against unnecessarily constraining or counterproductive policies without fostering alienation, and routinely used the authority given him to improve working conditions for airmen getting the job done.

The Air Force and its airmen will miss General Holt, and personally, I lament that we won’t see him wearing more stars … because he is exactly the kind of bold, honest, and critical-thinking leader our air service needs at this turbulent moment in its historical journey. But I suspect we’ll hear much more from him in the time ahead, and that he will continue to be an important voice of aerospace, national defense, foreign policy, and international affairs leadership as his second career unfolds. Leadership this strong can’t be suppressed or contained. It will find a way to operate.

Congratulations to Lion 01 on 26 years of superb service.

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