AFRL commander discusses unicorns, Space Guardians and more on Lab Life podcast

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Air Force Research Laboratory commander Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle is the latest guest of AFRL’s Lab Life podcast hosted by Michele Miller and Kenneth McNulty of AFRL’s Public Affairs office.

The Lab Life podcast provides listeners with insight into the fascinating work and lives of the people who lead the discovery, development and delivery of warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace forces– creating innovative technology for the future, today.

On this episode, Pringle discusses her first assignment at AFRL as Deputy Chief, then later Chief of the Warfighter Training Research Branch, in Mesa, Arizona. She also explores the power of the scientific method, highlighting AFRL unicorns, Space Force Guardians, and more.

Asked about any New Year’s resolutions she may have as AFRL commander for 2021, Pringle states, “Since the warfighter is counting on each and every one of us at AFRL, we want to continue to lead, discover, develop and deliver transformational technologies,” adding that, “nobody has AFRL’s talent or the passion, or commitment that we have to the warfighter and nothing could be more important to our nation.”

Speaking about her first AFRL assignment, Pringle says that she loved being a scientist in the warfighter training branch. “I loved solving problems so that was the perfect place for me,” she says. “I really learned a lot about how science and technology supports warfighters from ground controllers calling in attacks to air battle managers calling the dogfight, so it was really great to work with the scientists, engineers and the functional experts helping operators and learning about what they needed.”

Being a scientist has been relevant throughout the range of jobs Pringle has held in the Air Force, she says. “In fact, I’ve done almost the end-to-end of the acquisition life cycle, from developing cutting edge science and technology, to sharing technologies with our partners to program management. I have loved being a scientist from day one to today.”

Pringle says every member of the AFRL team is unique with skills and capabilities that help the AFRL enterprise achieve its mission.

“It’s a very critical, national mission and it takes everything from our astrophysicists studying the galaxy to the doctors supporting our USAFSAM mission, to chemists, to our functional ninjas in contracting or finance, or hiring the wonderful talent that we have, and so not a single one of them is the same and that’s truly the beauty of AFRL – having 6,000 unicorns coming together in this enterprise to solve the warfighter’s toughest problems.”

While discussing her leadership philosophy, Pringle says one of the first tenants she likes to share with all members of AFRL is to be the best Airman or Guardian you can be and to be the best teammate you can be.

“It’s all about being your best at what you’re doing. This means never accepting the status quo and looking to solve new problems and making it better when you leave than what it was when you got there. In terms of being the best teammate you can be, none of us can solve all the world’s problems on our own and it takes a unique team of talent, in fact, a team of teams to make it all happen. So that’s why reaching out and supporting those who are outside your individual day-to-day tasks is so important because each member can bring some unique insights, and by being the best teammate you can, and helping them excel, helping them achieve their goals, it makes the mission that much stronger and more able to achieve the needs that we have.”

In speaking about AFRL’s junior force members, Pringle says AFRL recognizes they are the future and she wants to keep them around a long time.

“We want them to be a part of our team and leading us into 2030 and beyond,” she said.

Pringle states that developing the skills of the junior force is critical. She credits AFRL’s dedicated supervisors, who guide new team members, ensuring they understand their roles and responsibilities.

“Of course, they have a lot of interesting problems to solve and so blooming where you’re planted is an important part of being a junior force member and contributing to the team,” states Pringle.

“Blooming where you’re planted” is a mantra Pringle says she learned early in her career as a lieutenant.

“It’s first of all important to look at what we’re doing and connect it to the bigger, broader Air Force mission. Making sure we understand we’re all doing something to contribute to warfighting makes it a lot more interesting and a lot more satisfying, but doing the best where you are, blooming where you’re planted – that ties in perfectly with my leadership philosophy of being the best Airman or best Guardian you can be.”

Also on this episode of Lab Life, Pringle congratulates the Guardians of the United States Space Force, which just celebrated its first birthday Dec. 20, 2020.

“AFRL is dedicated to supporting the United States Air Force and the United States Space Force. In fact, we like to say we’re one AFRL supporting two services and in our ranks, we are really proud that we have both Airmen, and now what we call Guardians, as part of our team.”

Looking back at 2020, Pringle says that Team AFRL did a phenomenal job in rising to the challenges presented, meeting them head-on and still getting the job done.

“We did a lot of new and different things and looking forward to 2021, we don’t know what all the challenges will be, but we know hard work, home-work and teamwork will be required. I know that the 6,000 unicorns we have will come together and solve those problems. Nothing will be a barrier to success or innovation and the warfighters will get what they need because of this talented team.”

image of commander

Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, speaks with reporters during a virtual media roundtable event held during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 16, 2020. (Courtesy photo)

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