General Stephen W. “Seve” Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, a role he has had for five years, making him the longest serving Chief in history, says his success boils down to his ability to focus on the people around him and on the Airmen that he leads.
“All these jobs you’re in ultimately, it’s about people, it’s about relationships, it’s about enjoying what you do. It’s a real easy formula for success for our Air Force. First, you start with really good people; we get them the right education, training and experience and make sure they’re competent and proud of what they do and that they are personally and professionally fulfilled. And when we do all those things, it’s magic,” Wilson said.
In his role as Vice Chief, he presides over the Air Staff while serving as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Requirements Oversight Council and Deputy Advisory Working Group.
General Wilson assists the Chief of Staff with the organization, training, and equipping of 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas.
In an effort to address the needs of Airmen in the force, a program called “True North” was developed by Wilson, focusing on the mental health and resiliency of personnel.
“True North” was an outgrowth of the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) program that embedded psychologists, social workers, chaplains and “religious affairs airmen” in squadrons and groups. This was tested on four bases and will expand to 16 bases by the end of the next fiscal year.
“His dedication to operationalizing True North is so much more than just a resiliency concern,” said Brig. Gen. Claude K. Tudor, director of Air Force resilience, who worked with Wilson on the initiative.
“This effort has strengthened unit readiness and ensured a lethal force to do whatever our nation requires. Through True North, he has been able to champion the human and fiscal requirements to embed spiritual and behavioral care providers in units. This effort has developed a strong sense of trust and confidence in the caregivers while helping to break down barriers and the stigma for getting care,” Tudor said.
While Wilson recognizes that Airmen “are our most important weapon system,” he also has focused on technology, innovation and hardware.
Much of his focus has been on the technological aspects of advancing the Air Force’s capabilities. He has been a tireless advocate for keeping the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of Airmen alive throughout the force.
He defines his role as “to help drive the requirements and ultimately the capabilities to keep our Air Force where it needs to be. So the whole question of how do we build the Air Force we need and how do we build the Airmen we need? These are two key job jars that fall in the vice chief’s office,” he said.
Wilson was the catalyst behind the Spark Tank competition to bring Airmen’s fresh and innovative solutions to chronic organizational problems. He also created the Vice Chief’s Challenge to get good, homegrown ideas noticed, developed and instituted.
Wilson also created a partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), establishing an “artificial intelligence accelerator.” The accelerator combined Airmen, MIT students and professors to produce digital tools needed for real world operations.
As a bomber pilot, Wilson was instrumental in development of the B-21, the Air Force’s long-range strike bomber of the future. He has proven to be a tireless and influential advocate for nuclear modernization, focusing on the need for hypersonic weapons, the broader use of artificial intelligence and establishing multi-domain operations.
In his prior assignment, Wilson was the Deputy Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. General Wilson has had multiple flying tours and has over 4500 flying hours and 680 combat hoursl He led bomber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, mobility, aeromedical evacuation and airborne command and control operations. He supported operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
He has held numerous command positions, including the Joint Functional Component Commander for Global Strike and Air Force Global Strike Command.