In the summer of 2009 Lieutenant General Michael Gould returned to Colorado Springs to become the eighteenth superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy. A lot had happened in the 37 years since a teenaged Gould first reported to the Academy to earn his wings and serve his country. The “doolie” had earned numerous academic honors including a bachelor of science degree at the Academy and a master of arts in human resources development (‘86) from Webster University as well as completed advanced management programs at the National War College, the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He clocked more than 3,000 hours as a command pilot, served as director of mobility forces for Operation Joint Endeavor, commanded the task force for troop deployment into Darfur and earned a chest full of Air Force Distinguished Service Medals. He commanded the Third Air Force in Mildenhall, England, the Second Air Force at Keesler Air Force base in Mississippi and personally trained hundreds of others to fly, to fight and to win for the United States of America.
“ For me, military service means living the Air Force core values of integrity, service and excellence,” Gould reveals. “Integrity is about knowing the right thing to do and doing it. Service is about understanding one’s roles and responsibilities to the team, and always putting the needs of others before one’s own. In the Air Force we call it being a good wingman. Excellence is about being personally accountable for one’s actions, being 100% committed to a task, and always doing one’s best. Serving in the world’s most feared and respected air, space and cyberspace force with such outstanding Airmen is the greatest honor I’ve known. My wife Paula and I are so grateful to be a part of the Air Force family.”
Over the years, Gould’s rank and assignments changed. But one thing remained the same: no matter where he was, he helped others develop their skills. This pilotturned- instructor-turned-leader used his words, actions and management ability to enable those around him to utilize their own individual strengths. Lieutenant General Mike Gould is, and always has been, a “coach.”
For those who don’t know it, “Coach” is Mike Gould’s call sign. A call sign is a nickname given to a pilot by his peers. It’s bad luck to pick your own call sign. Most are a play on the pilot’s name or a personal characteristic. Sometimes for the unlucky, a call sign highlights a past—and not necessarily positive—exploit. The more a pilot complains about his or her call sign, the better the chance that name will stick! Were the pilots who picked Coach’s call sign referencing his time with the football and golf teams at the Air Force Academy? Were they thinking of the men and women he’s trained over the years? Or, did they somehow know that this father, son and even husband of a pilot would end up back at the Air Force Academy as superintendent?
“ As the superintendent, my job in many ways parallels that of a coach. I establish the strategic vision to make sure Team USAFA has a plan to move the ball in the right direction, and my faculty and staff (assistant coaches) execute ‘the plays’ to make sure the ball keeps moving in the right direction. We consistently remind each other how fortunate we are to be at the Air Force’s premier institution with the opportunity to train, motivate, develop and inspire our replacements and how important this mission is for the nation. The cadets understand that at the end of four years, receiving a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force carries a tremendous responsibility of commitment and service. The cadets represent the best our nation has to offer. They are the future of our Air Force—they stand prepared to answer our nation’s call!”