Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, a former Valdosta resident, assumed command of the 7,500-employee Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah, following a Sept. 8 ceremony.
He is a 1985 graduate of Lowndes High School, and is the son of Valdosta residents Dusty Buhler, who served in the Air Force for 20 years, and Tammy Buhler. This is his 16th assignment since receiving his Air Force commission in 1989 through the ROTC program at Valdosta State College.
“I can tell you, I never considered that I wouldn’t join the Air Force. It was kind of an assumption in my mind,” he said. “My dad didn’t push me toward the Air Force … I just knew I wanted to be an Air Force officer. When I was younger, I set my goals on applying for an ROTC slot. I was very, very blessed to have an ROTC scholarship and get my commission.”
He started out in the 354th Component Repair Squadron Avionics Branch at Myrtle Beach AFB, S.C., and his varied career has since included aircraft maintenance, logistics, business development, resource integration and munitions. Buhler has directed a command post, served as a legislative liaison and overseen precision maintenance on the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” aircraft. He’s also commanded at the wing, expeditionary group, and squadron levels.
The lessons he’s learned in his assignments have helped Buhler deal with the different personalities he’s met worldwide.
“One thing that I tell folks is the best leaders change their leadership approach, based on who they’re dealing with. Some leaders can come in and have a one-size-fits-all approach … they don’t change, regardless of who they’re dealing with,” he said. “I equate it to an NFL coach who learns the talents of the individuals on the team, then builds the offensive and defensive schemes around those talents. That’s how I like to lead — evaluate who I get to work with.”
“Everybody has pros, everybody has cons, including myself, and so it’s good to build a team going forward that way. Some people you can say ‘I’m disappointed in you’ and that will be the worst thing they’ve ever heard. With other people, you have to be a little sterner. And some people you have to just shrug your shoulders. Everybody responds differently.”
Shortly after 2nd Lt. Carl Buhler entered the Air Force, the Berlin Wall was torn down and Operation Desert Shield began after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. George Bush was president, and the Air Force had 535,233 active duty Airmen.
“When I first came in, I had parts on hand, I had 300-plus maintainers,” the general recalled, “where now, you probably have around 200 in an A-10 flightline unit. We had officers one- or two-deep in every organization.
“Plus, and this is a key, we didn’t deploy that often. In fact, we had three squadrons on base and we were lucky, each of us, to get one TDY deployment a year — usually two weeks to Red Flag, two weeks to Air Warrior. Now, with real-world deployments, people are gone four-to-six months to a year and the size of our Air Force is almost 50 percent less compared to when I joined.”
Yet, Buhler sees the current fiscally constrained environment as an opportunity to make operations more efficient.
“Losing resources is not always a bad thing because it leads to folks finding ways to be efficient,” he said. “My outlook on the Ogden ALC going forward is cost-effective readiness. We can do a lot of great things, right now, today, that will impact our Air Force for years and years to come.”
As commander of the Ogden ALC, he leads a team of mostly civilian personnel that performs depot repair, overhaul, and modification of the A-10, C-130, F-16, F-22, F-35 and T-38 aircraft, the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile system, and a wide range of commodities. These include landing gear, wheels and brakes, rocket motors, air munitions and guided bombs, photonics equipment, training devices, software, electronics, avionics, instruments, hydraulics, power systems and other aerospace components. His responsibilities extend to maintenance operations at remote sites in Japan, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, California and Florida, and ICBM wings located in Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana.
The Ogden ALC is one of three air logistics complexes in the U.S. Air Force — the others are at Tinker AFB, Okla., and Robins AFB, Ga. They are under the command of the Air Force Sustainment Center, headquartered at Tinker, one of five specialized centers assigned to the Air Force Materiel Command. The AFSC mission is to sustain weapon system readiness to generate Airpower for America. The center provides war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through depot maintenance, supply chain management and installation support. Buhler describes himself as a proactive, visible, “out-and-about kind of leader” who strives to plan ahead.
“I’m a process guy. The folks that know me — and I tell my staff — I’m a planner’s planner. I like to plan and then have plans on top of that. I’m a firm believer that if you plan to prevent something bad, the bad part usually doesn’t happen.”
Stressing efficiency and teamwork, Buhler wants the ALC employees and leadership to know that “we matter” — the Ogden ALC is important to keeping the Air Force operating.
“I truly believe that any leader, including myself, works for the folks getting the job done. I truly believe that,” he said. “It’s a strategic imperative for us to be more efficient. I think everybody — from the technicians on the floor to all of our commanders and our civilian leaders — needs to be more demanding of each other in terms of knowing what’s going on and helping to knock down constraints.”
“I’ve been very, very impressed with the scope of the ALC. I honestly wasn’t aware of how large, in terms of span; this ALC was in terms of the things we touch. I’ve enjoyed meeting our Union reps and having relationships with the union. And I’m very, very impressed with the work ethic of the workforce here.” “Additionally, I’ve been very impressed with my Team Hill teammates, as well as the community leaders that support the base and our workforce.”