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Accelerating Change at Aero India 2021

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, 8th Air Force command chief and J-GSOC senior enlisted leader
  • 8th Air Force & J-GSOC Public Affairs

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force charged us to accelerate change.

I had the pleasure of witnessing our Aero India 2021 bomber team going full afterburner by participating in an event that demonstrated a feat of airpower that had not been accomplished since October 1945. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, the Bomber Task Force performed integrated aerial demonstrations during the largest trade show in Asia, held at Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru, India. For the Indian Air Force, this was the 13th iteration since its inception in 1996. For the United States Air Force, this was the first time a bomber landed on Indian soil in 75 years – a historical moment indeed!

According to XLR8 (Accelerate) by James P. Kotter, accelerating is much more about leadership than mere management. Kotter stresses, the game is about vision, opportunity, agility, inspired action, passion, innovation and celebration. This trip was a testament to a game well played.

More than 40 warfighters, four country stops, a 55-hour round-trip flight, and four COVID tests, Aero India 2021 was a success featuring the debut of the B-1B supersonic bomber. Honored to participate, the Mighty Eighth focused on strengthening our partnership with India, furthering military-to-military relationships and cooperation. 

A chronological sequence of events

The Ellsworth Air Force Base commander and 8th Air Force commander briefed all players in a face-to-face team huddle and expressed our shared vision, mission, objectives and the team’s role to ensure they understood their contributions to the mission in strengthening partnerships.

A sea of uniforms lined up and walk across the flight line for a foreign object debris check in anticipation of the bomber’s arrival. Upon her landing, more than 18 different career fields were present standing by, trained, certified, confident and ready to execute their duties in preparation of the B-1’s debut for the following day.

It has been expressed by scholars that accelerating requires action that is head- and heart-driven. Furthermore, we all possess a genuine and fundamental human desire to contribute to a bigger cause in order to create a better future.  

Our team understands great competition. They also understand their role in executing the National Defense Strategy line of effort in strengthening Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region that provides prosperity and security for all. 

Despite all the arduous work to be done, the BTF team took time on two occasions to celebrate time honored traditions--ensuring our team members most important achievements received the acknowledgment they deserved.

Focused on our greatest weapon system, our Airmen, the Public Affairs team highlighted and featured the many diverse Faces of Aero India. Our valued team members shared their personal stories and meaning of this moment.       

On the inaugural day of the trade show, the B-1 bomber integrated with an Indian Air Force Tejas fighter for a most impressive demonstration. The arrival of the B-1 signified the first U.S. bomber on Indian ground since World War II. The crowd was amazed.

Closing  day of the Aero India was no less impressive. The B-1 bomber flanked by two Tejas aircraft on both sides signaled the importance of partnership between the two countries that have been solidified with diplomatic engagements throughout Aero India.  


I’m fortunate to be a part of this amazing team. Their dedication to the success of this engagement sent a message of commitment to our allies and partners. Bomber Task Forces are an integral part of Dynamic Force Employment, National Defense Strategy, and a realization of our strategic efforts.  

It’s not just about relationships, it’s all about relationships!