Tag Archives: teamwork

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!

121,000 pounds in 15 seconds

By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
U.S. Air Forces Central

Their flight suits are soaked through with sweat, it’s 110 degrees outside and the smell in the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III resembles a high school locker room — we’re 30 minutes into our 15-hour mission.

Air DropLike the majority of people who like to browse news on the war, I’ve seen many pictures and videos of supplies and cargo being dropped from an aircraft … the pallets of supplies float gracefully down and that is that. Never do I see the blood, sweat and tears that go behind getting those pallets to where they need to be.

The crew is alerted around 9 a.m. and arrives to the squadron 40 minutes later. They assemble for a highly detailed pre-mission brief that prepares the Airmen for what they will face during their mission.

Once processed through customs, it’s time to arm up and head to the plane. Today is my first combat airdrop mission; our location is somewhere in Southwest Asia. The air is heavy with humidity — you can actually feel the air on your skin. At this point, all we’ve done is place our bags on the C-17 and already our flight suits are drenched in sweat. Drops of perspiration are falling off the loadmaster’s face. We have 13 hours left in the day.

Even in the cargo bay of the massive aircraft, room is at a premium. More than 73,000 pounds of JP-8 fuel loaded on 40 pallets fill the aircraft from tail to nose, leaving just enough space for us to walk along the sides. The loadmaster’s voice comes over the speakers “ready for takeoff.” Within seconds our warehouse with wings is in the air.

Estimated time over target is two hours. The lights dim and things begin to cool off as we ascend.

As we get closer to the drop zone, Staff Sgt. Russ Johnson, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, signals a 30-minute warning. My two partners are no strangers to documenting airdrops, but for me, this is a new experience.

I strap myself into a seat in the back by the door. The aircraft dives, dips and dodges its way through the mountains of Afghanistan — I eye up the closest pile of puke-bags in case things go south for this guy.

The door opens at about 1,000 feet above the ground. I knew Afghanistan was mountainous, but I couldn’t have been prepared for what I saw. The mountains are high and the aircraft is low. It feels as though I could reach out and touch the mountaintops — I wasn’t too far off.

It’s game time. Red light … yellow light … green light. Within two seconds, 36,500 pounds of JP-8 fuel violently races past me and out the aircraft, floating down to coalition troops on the ground. Our second pass drops another load.

Gearing up for our third drop, a stop is made at Bagram Airfield (BAF) to refuel and load up another 48,000 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat. As we’re parked on the ramp, the doors open and the tail goes down. For anyone who hasn’t been to BAF, it’s a sight to see. A bowl of mountains surround the airfield. On the ramp of the aircraft lay two loadmasters enjoying the sunset on what appears to be a peaceful evening.

With one pallet left to load on the plane, sirens go off. The peaceful moment disappears as the crew loading the plane runs for cover because, make no mistake about it, we are at war.

Air DropThe news team and aircrew shelter in place on the aircraft. The sirens disappear and a new noise is heard. A pair of fighter jets and helicopters take to the sky. We all agree, someone is about to have a bad day.

More than an hour passes before the last pallet is finally loaded.

The sun is down and the sky is dark. Red lights illuminate the cargo area of the plane.

In preparation for the last drop of the mission, the lights dim. Looking through the viewfinder of my camera is a daunting task as visibility is close to nonexistent. We’re effectively an invisible flying Wal-Mart under the night sky. In a matter of 10 seconds, the doors open, the MREs blast out the door and we are on our way home.

Fifteen hours for about 15 seconds of actual action. Action that will keep my brothers and sisters fed, and their vehicles working.

The men and women of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from Joint Base Charleston are game changers. They allow coalition forces to sustain operations in some of the most austere locations on Earth. They are force multipliers.

Video: Airlift supports warfighter

Photo: (Top) Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Adams, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, observes 36,500 pounds of JP-8 fuel fly out the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft over Afghanistan July 8, 2011. The C-17 dropped more than 121,000 pounds of food and fuel during a 15-hour mission. Supplies were dropped to U.S. and coalition troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri) (Bottom) Staff Sgt. Adams releases 48,000 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat out of the C-17 on July 8, 2011 over Afghanistan during the concealment of the night sky. The crews also airdropped more than 73,000 pounds of JP-8 fuel during their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)