Defense Logistics Agency Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Jimmy Canlas shares his first impressions, his expectations for the coming year, and a little about himself during an interview with his public affairs staff in August.
Can you please tell us about yourself?
My name is Brigadier General Jimmy Canlas. My call sign is “Vegas,” a nickname given to me by the Air Force almost 25 years ago. I’m a mobility officer by trade meaning I spent majority of my career operating large aircraft and supporting mobility mission sets. I’ve flown more than 4,400 hours in the KC-135R Stratotanker air refueling aircraft and C-17 Globemaster III, a large military transport aircraft performing essential tactical and strategic airlift worldwide. I’ve had multiple assignments outside of flying airplanes in Korea as an international plans officer and as the European Deployment and Distribution Operations Center Chief. I think that widened my aperture as well as my staff tour on Headquarters Air Force staff. That definitely was eye opening. I’ve been in the Air Force for 27 years. The time has flown by, but it’s been tons of fun.
I’ve married up to my wife, Joy. We will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this year in October. I have two children, Jonah is 16 and Malea is 15 who are a junior and sophomore in high school. I am very proud of them accompanying us on our military journey.
What would you like to accomplish as commander?
Our organization is extremely good at what we do. What we do for the Joint Services, the combatant commands, and the warfighter is unmatched. The question I always ask myself is, “Are we ready for the next fight? Are we ready for the high-end fight? Are we keeping pace with the National Defense Strategy?” We need to ensure we are agile and adaptable. I have four priorities as the Commander. My first priority is to develop exceptional leaders. The second is logistical excellence, the third is being agile and adaptable, and finally to promote an environment of dignity and respect. I know that we are really good at what we do. If we’re tested in in a high-end fight with a near-peer competitor, is our organization structured to do that and can we maintain that? That’s something that weighs heavily on my mind.
What is your message to the DLA Energy workforce?
I am extremely proud of our teammates and what they do day in and day out. Keep doing what you’re doing, but let me know when and how I can help. As leaders, one of the biggest things we can do is to empower our folks. I want people to know they are empowered. Empowered means thinking outside the box to innovate and to take calculated risks. I’m not going to fault folks if they make mistakes. That’s okay. That’s how we learn. They don’t have to do things the same because we’ve always done it that way. It’s okay to try something different.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
I’m going to lean forward and give two qualities every leader should have. The first is courage. Courage on the battlefield tends to be inherent. But we also need the courage to make tough decisions. As leaders, we love to give good news. But we’re not as good at delivering the tough news, approaching people who are struggling. It’s easy to mentor the top 10%, but more challenging to mentor our bottom 10%. But it’s important for leaders to be able to have that tough conversation and say, “Here are some areas for improvement. Here’s some constructive feedback. And, let’s get after it. I am here with you. You are not alone.” We need to be able to get rid of those obstacles and let them know they have the right tools to succeed. That’s the courage I’m talking about.
The second characteristic is humility. C.S. Lewis said, humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. As people climb up a ladder, sometimes they find themselves admiring a kingdom. I think that’s a recipe for disaster, and not only setting themselves, but the organization up for failure. We need to stay humble … to remember where we came from and what it’s like to be on the ground in the weeds.
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
Without a doubt, my family is my biggest accomplishment. It’s what’s important to me. At the end of the day, I need to be a good husband to Joy and a good father to Jonah and Malea. I need to be able to lead my household in multiple ways in order for them to succeed. If I get my family right, everything else falls in to place.
Do you have any hobbies?
I am fluent in two dialects in Filipino. I speak Tagalog, which is the main dialect in the Philippines. I’m also fluent in Pampango, which is a regional area from where I grew up. My wife and I are from the province of Pampanga where Clark Air Base used to be until it closed back in the early 1990s. That’s a totally different dialect and is considered by many to be a different language.
As a family, we enjoy our movie nights. On a Friday or Saturday night, we’ll order a couple of pizzas and plop down to immerse ourselves in to a movie. That’s been really good bonding times, especially during COVID.
As far as in my personal time, I like to play golf. Wish I could get out more often. I’m not that great at it, but I do enjoy the fresh air and the scenery. I love riding motorcycles. I have a 2012 Harley Fat Boy that I like to cruise around on and, again, enjoying the fresh air, scenery and sense of freedom.
Anything you’d like to add?
I want to say to our entire Energy family how proud I am. In my 60-day lookback, I am very impressed with the organization, the people and the mission. I’m also impressed with how we are able to deliver even in these COVID times. My one request of the force is to help me define what our new normal is. We are going to have to find our own stride. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Ours can be unique. When we have that type of grassroots effort is when find the power of the people and set ourselves up for success.