Meet the 582nd Helicopter Group commander

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
The first Air Force helicopter group, the 582nd, recently stood up, and who better to take the lead than someone from the UH-1N community.

Col. David Smith, who's last duty position was the program manager for the UH-1N Huey at the Pentagon, was selected to take the reins.

"It was very humbling because it is a key position and there is an incredible amount of talent in the Huey community," he said. "It was also surprising because the position was just created. It wasn't something that I aspired to be because the position didn't exist."

Before joining the Air Force, Smith participated in the ROTC program at Kansas University and graduated with a degree in history.

"I have never been assigned to Warren, but there is a lot of historical significance and it is the home of ICBM operations," Smith said. "It's great to be here."

Smith arrived at Warren July, 2014, to help set up the group and as a commander, he has his own leadership style.

This new group commander said his style focuses on seven aspects: judgment, leadership by example, expertise in your weapon system, work ethic, collaboration and problem solving, the importance of mentoring, and discipline.

Leaders develop their style from life experiences and lessons learned, even those taught on the big screen.

"Military movies have helped develop my style," he said. "The ones I enjoy the most are the 'Band of Brothers' series, 'Saving Private Ryan' and '12 O'clock High' because they show a variety of leadership styles and how leadership style is situational."

The tailoring of style has been beneficial as the group faced a number of challenges during preparation for the stand-up.

"There were a dozen different things - big, major, separate issues - we faced," Smith said. "None of them were difficult on their own, but trying to do the right ones in the right order was a challenge - organizing and synchronizing all of the different functional areas and their development."

Now that the group is operational, Smith has set two goals for the 582nd HG.

"I want to make sure the group is ready to execute its wartime mission in providing immediate, flexible and decisive helicopter support," he said, "and I want to focus on mentoring and developing the Airmen of the group as officers, NCOs and aviators."

Smith, who is accompanied by his wife and two twin boys, said his family helps keep him grounded and focused on the mission. An important part of that focus has been examining the 582nd team and how the group can contribute to and enhance the mission.

"You want to make sure you do it right, by the mission and also by the Airmen, both the ones you are directly leading and by those you are supporting," Smith said.

Through everything, Smith said the Airmen have shown resiliency in the face of not only the helicopter re-organization, but the changes happening Air Force wide.

"There has been a considerable amount of change," he said. "It is the Airmen performing the mission who are very resilient to remain focused on getting the job done, while simultaneously executing the change."