OFFUT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb, –
Members of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) honored Dr. William Astley for his 36-plus years of service to the nation during his retirement ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Nov. 30, 2017.
"It’s been a great ride," said Astley, who served as USSTRATCOM’s resiliency coordinator since 2012. "I appreciate the mission, I appreciate people’s willingness to be open to that other perspective … and it’s been a wonderful career."
Patrick McVay, USSTRATCOM director of joint exercises, training and assessments, presided over the retirement ceremony and commended Astley for his many achievements. He specifically noted Astley’s mentorship of directorate-level resilience officers.
"When Bill walks out the door tomorrow, we’ll still be in good hands because of all the people Bill has trained and mentored over the years," said McVay.
Throughout his 11 years with USSTRATCOM, Astley and his team developed a number of programs and activities to ensure members of the command remain sharp, fresh and productive.
"In my mind, it’s not the big things that make a difference, it’s the successive continuation of little things," Astley said. "We initiated the concept of stand-up desks in the command, we focused more on walking and taking stairs [through the command’s Hallway Hikers program] and other proactive activities that don’t take much significant time out of the duty day. The concept was ‘little things throughout the day that make you more resilient, more focused and more creative.’"
Astley went on to highlight a subtle achievement that he described as one of his proudest at USSTRATCOM - that he never rode the elevator during his time with the command. He then challenged everyone to do the same.
"Taking the stairs once doesn’t mean much, but doing it a few thousand times over 11 years sure makes a difference," he said before reiterating, "it’s the small things that add up."
In addition to his time as USSTRATCOM’s resiliency coordinator, Astley’s government service includes 25 years as an active duty Air Force officer. He led a variety of milestone achievements to support airmen and their families.
"I opened Family Support Centers (FSC) at Lajes Field, Azores, and at RAF Mildenhall in England – started them from the ground up," Astley said. "The Family Support Center concept was brand new at that time and I was one of five active duty FSC directors in the Air Force."
After earning his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1994, Astley joined Offutt Air Force Base’s Ehrling Bergquist clinic faculty in the Family Medicine Residency program. While there, he taught Family Practice medical physicians "everything they needed to know about psych."
"The highlight of that assignment is when I was selected as teacher of the year at the University of Nebraska Medical Center," Astley recalled. "From there, I was squadron commander at the medical support squadron at the base hospital for two years (1999-2001)."
His first experience with USSTRATCOM came when Astley, a lieutenant colonel at the time, was assigned to the command as the medical planner in the command surgeon’s office.
"That was probably the turning point of my career because I got involved in two very-classified studies where I was doing human factors analysis," Astley said. "I was really interested in it, it was fascinating work. I took the clinical skillset and applied it to the operational community. I literally did not go back to clinical work after that."
From there, he went to the Air Intelligence Agency in San Antonio, Texas, where he served as chief of psychological operations for a year. He then moved to the Information Warfare Center and eventually became the vice commander.
"I remember saying to myself, ‘pinch me,’ because I’m a medic," he said. "So it was a fascinating ride!"
After almost 25 years in uniform, Astley retired from the Air Force in 2006 and had to make a career decision:
"Do I go back into clinical work or do I do more of this human factor work? I decided on human factors; so I stayed with the operational side," he recalled.
"I was hired to USSTRATCOM’s Global Innovation Strategy Center (GISC) at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Their job was to leverage the academic and commercial community to solve USSTRATCOM’s tough problems. They wanted people who understood the academic community, the commercial community, and people who were different than the typical STRATCOM operators and I fit that bill … we did some fascinating projects there."
The GISC operated for four years before closing and eventually turning into USSTRATCOM’s mission assessments and analysis directorate at the command’s headquarters. Astley served as the chief of assessments in the newly-created directorate.
In 2012, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, former USSTRATCOM chief of staff, came up with the idea for a command resiliency program and Astley was selected to build the program from scratch.
"I said ‘that’s for me!’ It allowed me to take the operational work that I’d been doing since 2001 and apply it back to a people perspective," said Astley, who is the first and only person to serve as the program coordinator.
Astley’s departure comes as USSTRATCOM is preparing to move into its new Command and Control Facility (C2F) next year. His retirement marks one of the final high-level ceremonies in the current headquarters. A day after Astley’s retirement, the command held the first official ceremony in the new C2F to bid farewell to Mr. Kenneth Callicutt, USSTRATCOM’s director of capabilities and resource integration.
A native of Irwin, Pennsylvania, Astley’s journey from Greensburg Central Catholic High School graduate in 1969 to Air Force retiree in 2006 to his final job at USSTRATCOM included groundbreaking achievements, awards and life-changing decisions.
"Nobody accomplishes everything that they want to, but I would say that I brought a different perspective into the command," he said. "I’m a medic, I’m still from the medical community and if you look around the command at all of these operational units, you will find people who are operators throughout the military. I wasn’t cut from that fabric, so I came in with a different perspective and I like to think that I added value."
One of nine Department of Defense unified combatant commands, USSTRATCOM has global responsibilities assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting.