Preparing to retire, General Bowlds highlights Air Force opportunities, ESC work
Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds (left), Electronic Systems Center commander, presents a medallion to Lt. Col. Tamara Schwart during Hanscom’s Heroes Homecoming June 24. Bowlds will be retiring from the Air Force after more than 36 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rick Berry)
Posted 8/26/2011 Updated 8/26/2011
by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
8/26/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- A love of airplanes is what began an Air Force career spanning more than 36 years.
Electronic Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, whose retirement ceremony is set for Sept. 1, following a change of command ceremony, never had a set plan for a military career.
"I always loved airplanes and aviation," he said. "After participating in Air Force ROTC programs in high school and college, along with being part of the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force seemed like a natural fit."
From the beginning, General Bowlds said, the Air Force presented him with great opportunities, great challenges and allowed him to work with exciting people and exciting programs.
"I was given the opportunity to do things that were unique, one of a kind," he said. "As a lieutenant, in the late 1970s, I helped install a brand new mainframe computer; the first in the Air Force. That was a huge responsibility right out of college."
As an engineer, General Bowlds got to attend test pilot school and do testing on high performance planes. He worked on the F-117 during the infancy of the stealth program, which then led to the B-2 program.
"I was able to be part of these revolutionary programs," the general said. "And now here at ESC, we also are working on programs, such as BACN [Battlefield Airborne Communications Node], that revolutionize the way we fight."
He also mentioned how capabilities on AWACS and Joint STARS allow them to operate in ways that were never originally envisioned. Protecting the Air Force network was another area he spoke about.
"This is the nature of acquisition and the nature of ESC," General Bowlds said. "The work that is performed at ESC has a big impact in how the military presents itself and provides advantages over adversaries."
Although he says the work done at ESC is not as visible as work on delivering aircraft, it really is a force multiplier for what the military does.
"This is the Information Age and we provide decision tools, help to move information and secure the network," the general said. "A lot of time work like that goes unrecognized; it's only when it's not there that someone realizes it."
The example he gave was of a dial tone, or more recently, cellular phone coverage. Until you go to use the phone and the tone or signal isn't there, you don't think about it, he said.
General Bowlds strived to create an environment at ESC where individuals could work to their fullest potential, to experience the type of opportunities he was given early in his career.
"I like to think I've been the greatest cheerleader for what the people here at ESC do," General Bowlds said. "I want to ensure that the people outside realize this is important all the time, not only when there's no dial tone or no coverage."
For someone just starting out in an Air Force career, his words of wisdom are simple.
"Give 100 percent, keep your enthusiasm and never sacrifice your integrity," he said. "You may not always get something for it, but if you gave 100 percent that will tell you something about yourself and tell the Air Force something about you as well."
His sons might be able to use that advice as they seem to be following in their father's path.
His older son just completed basic training and is now in technical school training in aerospace medicine, while his younger son is a sophomore on an Air Force ROTC scholarship at Notre Dame majoring in electrical engineering.
"It's nice to see them contributing and that they're comfortable with what they've spent most of their life doing, and they didn't get scared off," General Bowlds said.
Another piece of advice he offers is to take each opportunity as a chance to learn and grow.
General Bowlds mentioned how he became commander of the Rome Laboratory two weeks before Griffis AFB was set to close. The laboratory became the only organization left in what had become a business park setting.
"It would be easy to feel sorry for yourself, but you need to make it a new unique opportunity, give that 100 percent, and things will fall into place," he said.
General Bowlds said he foresees difficult times for the Air Force and ESC on the horizon because of the budget, but he has confidence ESC can handle whatever changes await.
"You couldn't ask for a better group of people," he said. "It's been great to be a part of this organization and being your champion. I'm sure ESC will weather whatever the future holds and still provide those dial tones."
For the future, General Bowlds and his wife, Marcia, plan to spend some time relaxing at their home in Virginia.
"After decompressing for a while, I want to get back to doing what I love; working in the defense and aerospace business," he said. "I want to keep working on things that the average person might see as impossible but which become possible."
The ESC Change of Command ceremony is set for Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. in the Hanscom Aero Club Hangar and General Bowlds' retirement ceremony will immediately follow.