Top general role model for students

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2001


DESTREHAN – A world of responsibility rests on the shoulders of Gen. Lester L. Lyles, our world to be specific. Yet, Lyles was as happy, and proud to have the chance to speak to Destrehan High School students as anyone last Friday. Lyles is a four-star general in the Air Force, one of only 32 in the armed services. Lyles commands roughly 9,000 individuals and over half of the Air Force’s $80 billion budget. His duty, as he saw it, was to speak to the gathered high school students, a duty that he prized above many others. If he hadn’t joined the military, he would have liked to be a teacher, counselor or principal, like the people that most influenced his own life, said Lyles. Lyles spoke of how he had asked a Washington D.C. group of students who their role models were. In answer, nearly all raised their hand at the mention of a reported East Coast drug lord. Lyles asked them who they thought his role models were. He simply explained by pointing his finger to the teachers and principal in the audience. “You are preparing yourself for the greatest experience ever, adulthood, and to be outstanding citizens,” Lyles said to the Destrehan audience. The teachers and educators are models in their being their as guides to help them along. Lyles grew up in Washington D.C., and entered the military first through the ROTC program. He worked his way up through the military, becoming a one-star general in 1990 and a four-star in 1999. The trip took 30 years, said Lyles. In response to a question of discrimination, Lyles stated that he had never encountered institutional bias in the Air Force. “There were no obstacles in my way unless I put them there,” said Lyles. Lyles is in charge of the Air Forces acquisitions and development of weapons and no weapons systems. The department covers everything from logistic support to fighter systems to satellite and missile technology. The general has been awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Air force Commendation Medal. He has also received many awards from various, clubs organizations and universities across the country. Lyles spoke highly of Destrehan High School, and took note of the discipline and overall impressive student body. He had met earlier for a briefing with the schools Air Force Junior ROTC program and was “very impressed by their profession presentation,” said Lyles. The briefing was an annual report on the achievements of the Air Force Junior ROTC group, as well as their activities, the way they measure their goals and how they have been preparing for life after high school. The students had much to report. Currently there are three Air Force and one Naval academy recommendations. There are also three four-year offers to any college in the country, said Col. Jim Webb. The Air Force Junior ROTC students had plenty of time to prepare for the briefing, but they were still nervous, they said. The presentation went better than they expected and the four-star general had a lot of compliments for them, they added. The general answered quite a few questions from the audience. He responded that he and all service personnel feel personally guilty if in a war-like situation. “We are the last people who wishes for warfare. We don’t want to hurt anybody,” said Lyles. Answering a question bound to be asked, Lyles explained that the salary cap for his position was $130,000. the figure seems like much, but considering that the equivalent position in the civilian world would be a CEO with a $42 billion operating budget, the salary really wasn’t too impressive. If there was anything he could change in the military, it would be the rate of pay, said Lyles. “We want to make sure that everyone is compensated and have a high quality of life,” he added. Lyles admitted that as well as wishing to be a teacher, his hobby and love is race car driving. So if anyone wants to know what four-star generals dream of in their sleep, it’s not too far from anyone else.