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Leaders continue LeMay tradition with Corona Top summit

The Air Force's top leaders are gathering this week at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to discuss plans and strategies in several key areas.

Secretary Deborah Lee James, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody, and most of the service's three- and four-star generals, including major command leaders, convened Wednesday for the annual and historic Corona Top meeting.

The main topics for the three-day summit will include the Air Force's budget, as well as its space, cyberspace and nuclear programs, Air Force spokesman Maj. Ethan Stoker said.

This annual meeting is the only time all the major leaders of the Air Force get together in the same place at the same time, Stoker said. The Air Force also holds smaller Corona meetings at the Air Force Academy each fall, and at MacDill Air Force Base in February.

Stoker said the leaders discuss matters such as personnel restrictions, budget limitations, technological changes, and geopolitical changes, as well as how the Air Force should adjust to respond.

Stoker said it was unclear if the Air Force would make an announcement on what leaders decided after the meeting concludes.

According to an Air Force history of the summits, Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, commander of the Army Air Forces, held the first meeting for top generals at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama in February 1944. The Army Air Forces, and then the newly formed Air Force, held occasional commanders' conferences afterwards, and they eventually turned into annual affairs.

Former Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis LeMay formalized the conference tradition at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1961 to improve cohesion and strategic planning among his MAJCOM commanders. To show his top generals the importance of teamwork and cooperation, LeMay had them work together to move 100 feet of heavy conference tables that had been linked together over to the conference room's window and back to the middle of the room. Afterwards, to continue to build esprit de corps among the generals, LeMay passed out fine brandy and his favorite cigars, the Corona, which gave the conference its name.

"Success comes in cans, not in cannots," LeMay is reported to have said about the "seemingly impossible" table-moving exercise. "By moving the multiple tables comprising this conference table, first to the window and then back to the middle of the room, each one of you had a chance to do both. And your efforts are proof positive it is doable as long as no one loses sight of the goal."

Over the years, the Corona meetings grew in scope and started focusing more on global issues, the history said.

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