SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- On Aug. 6, 2018, 50 years after the first flight of the C-5 Galaxy, the Air Force and Lockheed Martin completed its last C-5M Super Galaxy upgrade. On that flight was Air Mobility Command’s C-5 requirements manager.
For Rich Butler, this was an 18-years-in-waiting, memorable moment. A short conversation with the man is all it took to make another memorable moment for me.
After 30 years active duty and another 18 in civil service, Butler has been a faithful servant of the mission. And much like the C-5, Butler is quite the legacy himself. But those are my words, not his. He spent most of our time together talking about others and the aircraft, rather than himself.
Even after a short introduction, I was struck by how he was such a delightful gentleman - someone you could tell really cared about the Airmen and the mission.
“You know, we have a lot of great officers who come through our office – the kind of leaders who go off to be general officers,” he said. “They come in, learn the program and budget elements, and go on to make a bigger impact Air Force wide.”
Sometimes you have not just an interesting conversation, but a purposeful one. What Butler left me with was a sense of purpose, particularly around building a legacy of leaders. I commented on how this means that not only is he modernizing an aircraft, but also building the next generation of Air Force leaders.
A humble spark in his eye, a nod, and we moved on to talk about how “really smart and motivated these young officers are.”
Butler’s dedication to this mobility mission is motivating. Despite the fact that he had been working in the C-5 program for the last 18 years, the last time he had actually flown in a C-5 was 1986.
Eighteen years is a long time to oversee the delivery of this final aircraft, but it seemed to be an occasion worth waiting for – a suit jacket kind of occasion for this mobility man. Almost as if he was showing up for a graduation ceremony.
“The flight was great,” he stated. “The aircraft commander, Capt. Mark Mannello, and his crew are the best. Great airmanship, crew resource management, and all around real good Airmen!”
Throughout our conversation, this man continued to be a wealth of knowledge and patience.
He took the time to describe the beginning of the C-5 in almost a way a family member would talk about a loved one.
We began with explaining the initial phase, and how “these birds” grew and modernized over the years. I was again struck by how much time he’s spent within this process, and how easily he could rattle off dates, program information, and metaphors to help me understand.
“It was just impressive,” he sighed. “To see something like that brand new – was just so impressive.”
“It wasn’t just about seeing the completion of the work,” he said. “It really meant a lot to meet the folks who’ve worked so hard on this. They were enthusiastic. They talked to each other. They were professionals.”
Butler continues serving in AMC’s Plans, Programs and Requirements Directorate, and says when people ask him about retirement that, “I’m still making a contribution and having fun.”
In this way, Butler continues to make an impact.