JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
After 29 years of service, Air Forces Cyber’s vice commander hung up his uniform for the last time.
Brig. Gen. Mitchel Butikofer said goodbye to the Air Force during his retirement ceremony here June 1, 2018.
During his final assignment as AFCYBER vice commander, Butikofer assisted the commander in delivering trained and ready cyber forces which plan and conduct cyberspace operations in support of the service, joint force and nation.
Before retiring, Butikofer shared some wisdom from his nearly three decades as an Airman.
Q1: How does retiring make you feel?
A1: It’s going to be an emotional thing. Eventually, the end comes. I can say, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change anything. I never had a bad day. There were a few bad moments, but I never had a bad day. I think it’s good to be able to say that. Despite all the issues and with all the opportunities, it was all good.
Q2: What got you through those bad moments?
A2: People. When you have a bad moment, that’s when you rely on others.
Q3: Did you ever see yourself making it to brigadier general?
A3: HAHA! No! I’m just an Idaho farm boy. I figured I’d do my four years then go back to Idaho and raise hogs or something. I never anticipated this would happen. I think part of the greatness of the Air Force is, no matter your background or upbringing, you can be successful. It just requires perseverance, dedication and hard work … and luck.
Q4: Why did you stay in after your first four years?
A4: The people and the mission. You get addicted to the mission. That’s probably going to be the hardest thing for me to leave … being involved and engaged in something bigger than yourself and the great, wonderful people you get to work with every single day.
Q5: What’ll you tell your future grandkids about your time in service?
A5: The big thing I’ll focus on is the pride in serving our nation and being able to secure and help defend our freedoms. It’s been interesting because, for basically my entire time in the service, we’ve been at war. Desert Storm kicked off when I was a lieutenant and the Air Force has been executing combat operations in the Middle East ever since. And I’ll focus on the people you get the opportunity to work with. Those are the things I’ll share with my grandkids – the pride and the great people.
Q6: Who are some of your biggest supporters?
A6: My family. My dad. My dad served in the Korean War, in the Army. I remember him looking through his scrapbooks and talking about the stuff he went through. He’s just been a constant supporter. My mom was too when she was still alive. My wife and my daughters. I owe everything to them. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their support.
Q7: What are your post-retirement plans?
A7: I don’t know. I’d really like to give back to our nation and, potentially, the Air Force. It’d be great to work for a service-oriented organization that is concerned about taking care of people.
Q8: Who was your best and worst supervisor? And what good and bad things did you learn from them?
A8: I had a lot of good supervisors. What made them good is they gave me responsibility, they gave me opportunity and they held me accountable. My worst supervisors were micromanagers. They lacked confidence themselves, so they would impose that on you. They weren’t comfortable in their own skin, so they weren’t comfortable with anybody else.
Q9: How did you use this to evolve yourself as a leader?
A9: Well, don’t do what the bad did, and take care of your people.
Q10: It sounds like you have a great concern for people. Why is that?
A10: When I was a second lieutenant my staff and technical sergeants mentored me all the time. I’ve always been mentored by good people. I’ve always had good officers mentor me too and tell me what I need to do differently. That’s part of taking care of people.
Q11: Is there a motto you’ve tried to live by? Is there any significance to it?
A11: The thing I’ve tried to live by is, “The only competition I have is with myself.” When I get up in the morning I think, “What can I do today to make myself better?” When I get home at night, I reflect and think, “What have I done today to make myself better?” Focus on you becoming a better person overall.
Q12: Were you successful in bettering yourself?
A12: Not as successful as I could have been. I think I’m a better person today than I was when I came in. Am I as good as I probably could have been? I’ve set high standards for myself and haven’t always achieved them, but I don’t have any regrets. Sometimes we stub our toes and that’s what friends and mentors are for, to dust you off and send you back in the fight.
Q13: Do you have any parting words for your AFCYBER team?
A13: Don’t give up. You are a phenomenal team. You all amaze me. We have folks who are phenomenal leaders, tacticians and technical experts. Lead on and keep pressing on!