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News | May 11, 2018

USSTRATCOM and Team Offutt hosts “Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders” conference

By MC1 Julie Matyascik United States Strategic Command

U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) with the 55th Wing and the 557th Weather Wing hosted the 2nd annual “Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders” conference at the Beardmore Event Center in Bellevue, Nebraska, May 7, 2018.

More than 300 attendees, nominated by their leadership, attended the all-day event. The nominees, who have at least 10 years remaining in their military or civil service careers, were provided tangible leadership tools during this year’s "Igniting Innovation: How to Go Faster" themed conference featuring speakers and panelists inspiring out-of-the box thinking.

“Today’s conference is intended to provide you – our emerging leaders – with the tools you need to navigate the complex and ever-changing world of leadership,” said James Weber, the event’s emcee and USSTRATCOM program management office program analyst. “To assist us in the endeavor, we’ve invited dynamic and diverse speakers from federal service, academia and the private sector to share their thoughts about igniting innovation and how to go faster.”

The guest speakers and panelists included; Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX; Jay Foster, former Redstone, Jupiter & Saturn engineer, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Whitney Hischier, Red Team Thinking LLC and lecturer, University of California, Berkeley; Erica Wassinger, Omaha Startup Collaborative; Dr. Dale Eesley, director of University of Nebraska Omaha’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising; Craig Jacobs, director of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium human resources and Mark Griffis, president of Aviture.
Gen. John Hyten, commander of USSTRATCOM, provided welcoming remarks. He reminded attendees they are the force of the future and encouraged them to seek new methods and processes to embrace innovation and take calculated risks in the pursuit of innovation.

“There is no way I could be nominated for this event because you have to have at least 10 years of retainability,” said Hyten. “When I look out at this audience you need to know that all four-stars have two things in common. First of all, we’re all circling the drain and secondly we all wish we were you because we wish we could go back and do it all again.

“As we start talking about innovation, you need to realize that it will not be me that does it. Innovation comes from a million places, but the people that will do it will be you,” Hyten added. “You will have to figure out how to do it, how to stay ahead of our adversaries, how to move fast again.”

Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, followed Hyten’s presentation with the story of SpaceX. She shined a spotlight on some of SpaceX’s notable achievements and the failures that have paved its path forward, proving that risk-taking can have big rewards.

“She is an inspiration,” said Lt. Cmdr. Maria Sierra, USSTRATCOM logistics plans officer. “Not only is she the president of the most innovative organization today, but she is a woman breaking barriers. I am always trying to think outside the box conceptually, I am completely inspired by this event and her.”

The afternoon session featured guest speaker Erica Wassinger of the Omaha Startup Collaborative. She provided tools to be a more effective leader and solidified the knowledge through breakout sessions. A panel discussion with community leaders followed Wassinger’s talk.

Craig Jacobs, who is also a retired U.S. Air Force saxophone player, discussed his motivational leadership and how it has helped propel Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium to one of the top-rated zoo in the world.

“It’s about management and leadership,” explained Jacobs. “There is a clear and distinct difference between the two, [people] often confuse the two as being synonymous. Management is planning, controlling, coordinating and directing. The leadership part is that vision, that look ahead, you can look through walls. And that’s what I learned to do.”
The day of networking, leadership and innovation achieved its goal of empowering through coaching on leadership and encouraging each other to keep moving forward toward innovation.

“I found this to be a very interesting event,” said John Dietz, with USSTRATCOM’s logistics directorate. “I find it challenging, from a STRATCOM perspective, to figure a way to move faster… how we do business and who we do business with and what changes we need to make today to be successful tomorrow.”

U.S. Strategic Command 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.

For more information, contact the USSTRATCOM Public Affairs Office at 402-294-4130 or or visit