Protecting the castle

By Chief Master Sgt. David Duncan
319th Air Base Wing command chief

CMSgtDuncan8x10

Chief Master Sgt. David Duncan
319th Air Base Wing command chief

In my position as a command chief, I always take advantage of the opportunities I get to speak with Airmen. I often ask them several canned questions just to get the conversation rolling like “Where are you from?”, “Why did you join the Air Force?” and “Have you called your mom and dad lately?”

And finally I like to ask, “Why are you here?”

With this last question I have found each of us joins the Air Force for different reasons, but it’s important that we get to the bottom of why our Airmen are actually here.

So far, in my 28 years of Air Force service, I have held many jobs: maintenance, personnel, teaching, group superintendent and now command chief. The point here is not that I can’t keep a job, rather in each of these jobs, I have felt no less a part of the Air Force than in any other one of these jobs. As a young Airman, I was taught to look at the Air Force from a holistic point of view. We all fit in somewhere, and if our jobs weren’t important to the mission, they simply wouldn’t exist.

In November, I had the opportunity to attend the Enterprise Leadership Seminar at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. During the seminar, our senior mentor, retired Gen. Gregory “Speedy” Martin, asked us a question that really stuck with me. His question was, “Are you laying bricks, building a wall, or protecting the castle?”

To me, this question should make everyone take stock in what they bring to the fight for themselves, their wingmen, work center, squadron, group, wing, major command, Air Force and nation. As a young Airman, I never would have thought about my service on this level. But, as our Air Force continues to get smaller with the current force management reductions, I think we all need to stop for a moment and consider where we fit into the big picture.

Let me explain a little further. When I was a force support squadron superintendent in Guam, there was a young Airman working the grill in our dining facility. One day, I asked him why he was here. He said, “Chief, all I do is cook eggs for people’s breakfasts.” I quickly realized he didn’t understand the importance of his place in the Air Force. He could not see past the end of the grill. He was not aware, or did not believe, the breakfasts he prepared every morning fueled the fight. To him, he was simply laying bricks and didn’t know why.

Later that morning, I was speaking with this Airman’s supervisor, and I asked him the same question. His answer was, “I close out the breakfast meal and get ready for the lunch crowd every day.” I pushed a little further and asked why he was important to the wing’s mission? He said he didn’t really think he was since, “there were plenty of other people in the flight who could open and close the dining facility.”

It was obvious to me this staff sergeant believed his purpose was simply to ensure all the brick layers (chefs) were performing their duties so he could open and close the dining facility on time. To me, he viewed himself as the guy building the wall. But he also lacked the understanding of why this wall needed to be built. No wonder his Airman was confused about the same subject.

Shortly after these incidents, one of our “friends” in Asia started acting up so we stood a few B-52s on alert in case they were needed, subsequently they were. During this time, I stopped in the dining facility and saw the same Airman and staff sergeant. They were fired up and motivated and were telling me about their importance to the wing’s mission. I honestly thought someone was playing a joke on me. It turns out the dining facility manager sat down with his staff and discussed the importance of their work to the wing’s mission. He quickly and easily made a direct tie between the grill and every position on base, to include the pilots flying those B-52s. You see, he got it! He understood his chefs weren’t just laying bricks or building a wall. He was able to make them see they were helping to protect the castle. We all can’t have those military-sexy jobs shown in recruiting commercials. However, those commercials don’t really show every AFSC, but if you listen closely, they do speak to the importance of every Air Force member.

Again, as the Air Force continues to get smaller, it becomes even more critical each Airman understands the importance of their daily work. Recently departed Maj. Gen. A. J. Stewart once said, “The U.S. Air Force is concerned about quality of character, quality of effort … if you want to just get by, don’t come to the U.S. Air Force.”

You see, General Stewart also got it. With his quote in mind, we need to work harder at building stronger relationships between each other and with our community partners. Specifically, we need to do a better job looking out for each other in terms of stopping all unprofessional behavior, including sexual assaults and intoxicated driving, to name a few. This is yet another way we protect the castle.

In order to build these relationships, it is imperative that we quickly understand, acknowledge and execute our duty to intervene. If we see fellow Airmen about to do something stupid, we intervene and stop them. If we happen upon information concerning an event that has already taken place, we stand up and do the right thing, we don’t remain silent. Covering up for your buddy is not being a Wingman — it is being an accomplice to wrongdoing and should be dealt with accordingly. Intervening is clearly an additional way in which we protect the castle.

In the end, I guess it really comes down to my original question, “Why are you here?” I hope you now realize this question is a little deeper than you might have originally thought. Are you the one who will be in a position to help save someone, but will choose not to? Or, are you the one who can’t see the bigger picture and doesn’t realize how important your job is to the Air Force mission. Are you simply laying bricks and building a wall or are you here for the right reason — protecting the castle. I hope this is why we are all here!

Energy strategic plan: a conservation road map

by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

Air Force Week kicks off in New York City

Air Force operations demand more fuel and energy than they have in the past, but in a struggling economy, leaders are obligated to stretch tax dollars as far as they will go. So, how does the Air Force resolve the two necessities without compromising training, force sustainment, humanitarian relief efforts, intelligence gathering and combat missions?

A recent Pentagon roundtable answered that question by announcing energy efficiency initiatives under the new Air Force Energy Strategic Plan. The plan is a road map for future energy consumption reductions.

“We will not accept the notion that one has to choose between energy efficiency and mission accomplishment,” said Dr. Jamie Morin, acting under secretary of the Air Force, during the meeting. “They can be complementary and reinforce the goals.”

Simplified, the four fuel-related goals mapped out in the Air Force Energy Strategic Plan include:

  • Improving resiliency: identify energy and water sources that might be vulnerable to disruptions, physical or cyber attacks, or price volatility, and ensure the Air Force can recover them and sustain the mission
  • Reducing demand: build more efficient platforms, more effectively utilize resources, and improve the range and endurance of Air Force platforms without sacrificing capability
  • Assuring supply: diversify the types of energy used for aviation and facility operations, ground vehicles and equipment, as well as secure the quantities necessary to perform Air Force missions
  • Fostering an energy aware culture: ensure Airmen value energy as a mission critical resource and make it a consideration in every action, whether in permanent or deployed environments

Airmen can read the entire Air Force Energy Strategic Plan and submit energy saving ideas on the Air Force Energy website.

Week in Photos, Jan 4, 2013

Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick

Air Force Public Affairs Agency

This is how our Airmen across the globe ended 2012 in the new year’s first Week in Photos.

 

A C-130 Hercules taxis to its parking spot in Southwest Asia, on Dec. 28, 2012. Snow removal teams used specialized equipment to clear the runways and taxiways after an overnight snowfall covered the flightline with more than three inches of snow. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)

 

Fighting the bad guys, taking great pictures

By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

SSgt. Nadine Barclay

SSgt. Nadine Barclay

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.

Leaders should walk and talk instead of click and send

Chief Master Sergeant Harold L. Hutchisonby 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.

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