Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Travis Bowen unleashes a barrage of bullets from an M249, April 18, 2012, during a joint exercise at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Airman Bowen is assigned to the 571st Global Mobility Readiness Squadron at Travis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dwayne Johnson)
by Lt. Gen. David Goldfein
Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command
Recently, two of our U.S. Air Forces Central Command Airmen were criticized
online by other Airmen for receiving Bronze Star decorations after completion of their
deployments to Afghanistan.
I’d like to take this opportunity to explain the rigorous awards board process and emphasize the meticulous manner in which we ensure each award is justifiable and each recipient is worthy.
We recognize and honor our Airmen for their meritorious and heroic actions.
My AFCENT staff oversees a thorough awards approval process to ensure medals
are presented to only the most commendable candidates. This 20-year
decoration process has a demonstrated history of consistency, and we work
hard to maintain its integrity.
Led by a general officer, the board of combat-experienced colonels and chief master sergeants carefully and deliberately guarantee our Airmen deserve the awards they receive.
I am the final approving authority for each medal.
Every day, our innovative Airmen excel in the deployed environment.
Consider the security forces Airman who helped protect his base from more than 2,500
disgruntled Afghan citizens. He stood his ground, despite suffering detached
retinas, body bruises from thrown rocks and face wounds from high-powered
Or the KC-135 maintainer who worked in minus-20-degree temperatures to
extend the range and flexibility of our combat aircraft, which provide close
air support to protect coalition ground forces battling insurgents.
Or the finance officer who worked alongside special operations forces. She
executed $160 million in operational funds across eight remote forward
operating bases in support of counterinsurgency operations.
Or the combat controller who faced enemy fire and placed himself at grave risk on four
occasions while controlling more than 30 aircraft and more than 40 airstrikes.
These are just a few examples of achievements that we reward in AFCENT.
No one Air Force specialty code is any more important than the next in this
theater — it takes the entire team working together to get the job done.
Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Christina Gamez and Tech Sgt. Sharma Haynes are the
bedrock of our organization.
While we face a determined enemy, he is no match for this combined arms
team. Together, with laser-like focus on our mission, with the knowledge
that no challenge we may face is too much for innovative Airmen, and
knowing that our cause is just … we will continue to deliver decisive
airpower for CENTCOM and America.
By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Traditionally, women in our country bore children and stayed home to raise them while the men left home to defend our nation against her enemies.
Times have definitely changed; today both men and women in the armed forces sacrifice greatly for just causes. We live in a world where life, love and the pursuit of happiness are common themes among Americans.
In keeping with this motto, many people say that their lives really started the day they arrived in the U.S. to pursue a new life or the day that they met their soul mate; for me it was actually a little different. My life started a couple years after getting married when at age 20 I became a mother and again at age 24.
During the month of April we take time to reflect on the reason most of us wake up every morning and willingly put our lives on the line. It is designated as a Department of Defense-wide observance, the Month of the Military Child.
As a U.S. Air Force photojournalist and the mother of two beautiful girls I have the distinct honor of doing both; defending my country and pursuing my version of happiness and count myself lucky to have the freedom to do so. But it has not been easy.
Before my oldest daughter, Avah, now five, was even two, I was called to serve on my first deployment at the same time my husband, a USAF crew chief, went on his remote tour to a base in southern Korea. On opposite ends of the world we were required to function as parents and as Airmen.
The day I left my daughter for the first time she was one and a half. It felt like the life was sucked right out of me and remained gone until the day I returned home to her four months later.
This time while serving in Afghanistan on a slightly longer deployment as an advisor to Afghan air force public affairs airmen, I have been placed into a slightly less difficult situation.
My daughters, Avah and Sophia, age one, are now with the only other person that I trust with my life and theirs. His name is daddy, and he is acting as both mommy and daddy; the prince charming that my daughters need him to be in my absence.
He has taken on the unique challenges that come with being a male mommy. The daily tasks that are usually performed by myself are now met with “I don’t like this food” or “my mommy does it different.”
My daughters don’t totally understand why I chose to serve and that it is sometimes necessary for me to be gone, however they adjusted like champs to the drastic change.
Never-the-less, at 4 foot 11 inches, I’ve never been compared to any super hero other then Mighty Mouse, the legendary super hero that fights evil despite his small size, until recently when my daughter compared me to the pink ‘Mighty Morphin Power Ranger’.
She said that I was “fighting the bad guys” and “teaching people how to take great pictures.”
I often get notifications from my daughter’s teacher explaining how I am never far from conversation in a classroom filled with four and five year-old girls that see me as a real life super hero.
The fact that my daughter brags to her friends and truly believes that I wear a pink leather outfit under this multi-cam uniform makes me laugh and inspires the hope and strength that I need to continue to move forward in helping enhance the capabilities of Afghanistan.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to travel on a humanitarian mission in southern Afghanistan and saw firsthand that I was lucky.
Using a popular video chat system, I sat and explained some of the privileges and freedoms we enjoy to my daughters. It is easy to take many of these things for granted.
Of course my conversation was met with more questions than a five and one year-old could understand, but I was pleased to hear that although I’ve missed a birthday, the holidays, the tooth fairy’s first visit and the Easter Bunny so far that I was still a prized mommy.
A statement that was reiterated by, ” don’t worry mommy, it’s ok that you’re gone but remember when you’re done doing your job we are all going to Disney World like you promised when you left.”
I have accomplished many things in my life, yet to me none mean more to me then my two greatest ones who wait anxiously for my return home. So although April is the designated month for military children, they should be rewarded and cherished for the sacrifices they make year-round on behalf of our nation’s defense.
Photo Tara Fuller kisses her husband, Capt. Charles Fuller, during a homecoming event April 4, 2012, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Eleven F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots from the 421st Fighter Squadron returned to the base after a six month deployment to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julianne Showalter)
by Chief Master Sgt. Harold L. Hutchison
7th Air Force
Recently, I received and reviewed, with great concern, the alarmingly high Air Force suicide rates for fiscal 2012. As of March 27 we have had 30 suicides for the year compared to 23 at this same time last year.
You may be thinking, “Chief, why are you telling me this?” I would respond that I believe one of the many things we as leaders and Airmen can do to reverse this negative trend is employ increased face-to-face communication with your Airmen, to show we care.
Leaders need to get out from behind the desk to visit, mentor and socialize with our Airmen. Communicating in person has always been and still remains extremely important in today’s Air Force.
We have all been ingrained with the definition of leadership. After reading numerous professional military education articles, one could recite a phrase that would probably sound like, “Leadership is the art or the ability of an individual to influence and direct others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization and its mission.”
There are other ways to describe leadership. Ultimately, leadership is the ability of great leaders to effectively and efficiently lead Airmen to execute the wing’s mission, while making Airmen fully understand and feel their immeasurable contribution to the success of the Air Force’s overall mission. In my humble opinion, that exemplifies true leadership.
Effective personal communication is no small task in the modern military. With units consistently deploying, issues associated with increased family separation, long hours and countless other factors, Airmen may feel a heavy physical and/or mental burden to which no rank is immune.
Within our military culture, we have come to a crossroads with regard to communicating with our folks. Long forgotten is the talent of the one-on-one, face-to-face mentoring that was commonplace in our Air Force of yesterday. Email has certainly expedited the communication process, but it has also hindered, to some degree, the ability and willingness of some of us to get out from behind the desk. It’s taken away from the time we spend with our Airmen because we spend so much time emailing. I’ve seen Airmen send emails to someone 10 feet away from them in the same office. Is this the way we want to communicate with each other in today’s stressful environment?
In a peacetime military atmosphere, relying on email to communicate is sufficient, but a wartime force, with all the demands placed upon it, needs face-to-face communication. An often neglected leadership principle in today’s environment of technology is getting to know your workers and showing sincere interest in their problems, career development and welfare. It’s hard to show someone you really do care about them in an email.
I believe today, more than ever, we need to put more emphasis back on face-to-face communication. Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, a former Air Force chief of staff, once said, “To become successful leaders, we must first learn that no matter how good the technology or how shiny the equipment, people-to-people relations get things done in our organizations. If you are to be a good leader, you have to cultivate your skills in the arena of personal relations.”
I believe cultivating our inter-personal skills is as simple as just taking the time to talk to your subordinates and get to know them, the things they like and the things they dislike or perhaps about his or her next deployment. Show them you genuinely care for them. A leader who knows his Airmen will be able to recognize when one of them is having problems, either in their personal life or with assigned tasks, and hopefully you will be able to take steps and actions to affect change in the situation. If a leader doesn’t know what normal behavior is from one of his or her Airmen….how will you know what abnormal is?
As the Professional Development Guide states, “Leadership involvement is the key ingredient to maximizing worker performance and hence the mission.” With that said, we need to get out there and lead your Airmen from the front … they deserve good leadership. Finally, the demands of the ongoing war efforts not only need your attention, but require it.
Let’s face it, we cannot provide the leadership required from behind the desk.