Billy Fiske Blog By Vice Admiral Mat Winter, US Navy (Ret)

RAF 617 F35 Dinner

RAF 617 Squadron F35 Dinner

To be truthful, I did not know anything about Billy before December 2016 when, at a Christmas celebration dinner sponsored by the 601 (County of London) Squadron held in Washington, DC, I met the Honorable Kevin Billings, who in short order introduced me to the fascinating, compelling and incredibly impactful life of Billy Fiske. I have been a supported and supporting commander of the 601 Squadron and the Billy Fiske Foundation ever since!

As I type my thoughts here, the world is grappling with the seriousness of the Coronavirus Pandemic and I would be remiss if I didn’t extend my thoughts to everyone reading these words for your safety and health; to those that have been stricken with this nasty virus, my prayers for recovery; to those medical warriors that are on the front lines battling this invisible enemy, my humble appreciation and commitment to support you in your fight to victory. We are making steady progress as we navigate through our own personal and professional minefields that shift on us each day. With each day comes new concerns but also new, innovative solutions generated by a world population committed to fighting and defeating this common enemy. We shall prevail, for that I am certain.

Tizard's Cavity Magnetron - Billy Fiske Foundation

Tizard’s Cavity Magnetron

A common enemy, a world commitment to a single outcome……sound familiar? Reminds me of World War II, save the Axis of Evil, the world came together to fight a common enemy and we prevailed. One of the strongest bonds in that era was undoubtedly the United States and the United Kingdom. The Yanks and the Brits together literally in the fight for our lives. Though our relationship beginnings weren’t always so cordial, with that little dust up in 1776 and another in 1812, but like most neighbors we were able to move on and find the common ground to become staunch allies and friends; and that is just how I see it. So, let me share with you two personal examples of this incredible bond between our two Nations.

First, September 1940 and the Tizard Mission. With Europe engulfed in the height of the Battle of Britain and the United States staying quiet on the sidelines, Sir Winston Churchill directed his chief scientist, Sir Henry Tizard, to expeditiously solicit the United States development and production assistance in maturing some of the British’s crown jewel technologies that, if fielded, would give the Brits/Allies a suite of game changing capabilities to defeat the Germans.

Tizard 75th Anniversary

Tizard 75th Anniversary

It was a bumpy mission for numerous reasons that you can research yourself but suffice it to say, with the help of our Canadian friends, that when Sir Tizard was finally able to show and describe their eye-watering technologies – Cavity Magnetron, VT fuse, gyroscope gunsights, self-sealing fuel tanks, plastic explosives and more – to the United States delegation, led by Vannevar Bush, chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, they immediately grasped the enormity of the situation and agreed to help. The outcome was three-fold – a new-found US/UK scientific partnership, the generation of the most scientific advances made during the war and the eventual defeat of the Germans. I said this was a personal example, right? Well when I was the Department of the Navy’s Chief of Naval Research (2014-2016), I was honored to support and participate in the 75th anniversary of the Tizard Mission celebration in Washington, DC held at the Canadian Embassy. This ceremony brought the current day who’s who of the scientific community together to recapture the moments of the Tizard mission while reaffirming and reinforcing the strong, galvanized science and technology partnerships between the US, UK and our Canadian friends.

Second, during my time as the F-35 Lightning II Program Director, I had the unique opportunity to truly deepen and strengthen our US/UK partnership. There is not enough space here to fully express my gratitude and appreciation for my RAF and RN brethren but it is an absolute truth to state that the F-35 program (or programme) provided more than a common weapon system between our two Nations. It generated galvanized economic, diplomatic, industrial, personal and social alignments and partnerships that will endure for many, many decades to come. To underpin that, in 2018 I had the honor to participate in the re-establishment ceremony of the 617 Squadron, the fabled World War II Dambusters.  The RAF had decided to designate the Dambusters as the first operational RAF F-35 squadron. The historic significance was compelling and the ceremony, full of the pomp and circumstance that only the Brits can pull off, demonstrated once again the unwavering commitment and partnership between two staunch allies, the Brits and the Yanks!

Over my almost six decades of life, I have accumulated many personal stories, some suitable for print some not so, of my experiences demonstrating the tight bond between the US and the UK. A bond based on a shared set of values, the common good of mankind, and the continued commitment to peace and prosperity for our two Nations. I cannot think of a better example than Billy Fiske and his spirit of adventure and commitment to show that bond between the US and UK. Kevin Billings’ has those same qualities in his unswerving commitment to the 601 Squadron and to the Billy Fiske Foundation. I encourage those that were like me back in December 2016 to take the time to read, learn and be prepared to be blown away with the time and life of Billy Fiske. Thanks to Kevin for giving me this BLOG pulpit and I look forward to seeing you all at a future, covid19-free, 601 Squadron event!

RAF 617 Dambusters Ceremony

RAF 617 Sqn. Dambusters Ceremony

Mat Winter, VADM USN(Ret)

Mat Winter is the President of Winter Strategic Solutions, LLC, a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business conducting Leadership and Motivational speaking forums and providing technical and business advice to senior defense, non-defense, non-profit and academic leaders.

Prior to establishing Winter Strategic Solutions, Mat had a 35 year military career which encompassed three distinct leadership phases:  Operational tours of duty as a naval aviator flying the A-6 Intruder carrier-based attack jet; Numerous Navy systems acquisition tours as chief engineer, chief tester and major program manager; and Seven executive-level command positions in large acquisition organizations where he managed multi-billion dollar portfolios and thousands of personnel capitalizing on his program management expertise and effective leadership.

His final two Flag-level command positions were as the 24th Chief of Naval Research/Director of Innovation and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program Director, where he ran the Defense Department’s largest acquisition enterprise in history, delivering the technologically advanced 5th Generation Strike Fighter weapon system with $30 billion dollars annual budget and over $1 trillion dollars life cycle responsibility.

Mat has a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Science degree from the Naval Post Graduate School in Computer Science and another from the National Defense University in National Resource Strategy.

He serves on the Board of Directors for the Support Our Aging Religious (SOAR), as a Trustee to the Board of Directors for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and as a member of the ACTIVZ Global LLC Advisory Board.

Mat holds lifetime memberships with the Army Navy Club, American Society of Naval Engineers, Association of Old Crows, Military Officers Association of America, Navy League, National Defense Industrial Association, Surface Navy Association, The Tailhook Association and the United States Naval Institute.

He is a “Teacher Leader,” who fosters a culture of success through positive empowerment, bold moral leadership and personal ethical accountability. He continues to serve through several volunteer and non-profit organizations to include his personal commitment to supporting local, State and National Veterans organizations.

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