People + pride = performance: Insight from the CSAF

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AFNS) -- "I really believe if you are an Air Force and you recruit the best people in the country, which we do, and you train them better than anyone else and you put them with people who make them proud of what they do, how well they do it and what they represent, then you get a performance you can never get any other way," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "The formula is simple, people plus pride equals performance."

The general and his wife, Betty, visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 to thank Airmen and their families for their service and address current Air Force challenges.

"It is really helpful for us to get out and see what you are all doing and how you are doing it -- to talk to the Airmen and to get an idea of what concerns you have," Welsh said.

During their visit, they learned about Joint Base Lewis-McChord's joint basing structure and the collaboration with Army service members, the total force partnerships, the prime nuclear airlift force, and the base's continuing effort to ensure a culture of dignity and respect.

Also, more than 1,800 Airmen, civilians and spouses came together in Hangar 3 to listen to Welsh share his thoughts and answer questions.

Welsh started his all call off by thanking not only his wife for all her support throughout his career, but all family members who support the Air Force. He also acknowledged members of McChord and the capability they provide in defense of the nation.

"We have talked to everybody that our Airmen serve around the world, every combatant commander, people in other countries, our allies and our coalition partners and let me tell you what they say about you," Welsh said. "They say that you guys rock; they love what you do and they love how well you do it, they want more of our mission and they want more of you. So I want to say 'thanks' for how well you represent our Air Force, our country, your own unit and each other because you really should be proud of how you do that job."

He went on to apologize to civilians for a rough 2013 -- for furloughs, for government shutdown - and thanked them for their dedication and hard work. He reminded those in attendance of the importance of civilian Airmen and recognized Danny Pope, a 62nd Airlift Wing maintenance squadron member, who's been at McChord for more than 40 years.

"Danny is a behind the scenes civilian who makes things work and for the last four decades he has been taking care of you and the base," Welsh said. "He is the fabric of our Air Force, he is the kind of guy you want to go to work with and someone I would consider the world's best teammate."

The general then went on to remind the audience the importance of every single Airman.

"I don't care how long you have been in, how many stripes you have or how many jobs you get; when you are a supervisor you need to tell other Airmen how important they are while at the same time remembering that you are the most important person in the Air Force and you deserve to be treated that way," he said. "Everybody in this room has a role to play in our Air Force, it is a critically important role and the sooner we remind ourselves that each of us is critically important, we will treat each other and better take care of each other."

Welsh went on to state what he considers the keys to success going forward - common sense, communication and caring.

"We have to realize that if our AFI's, policy letters and rules we are following do not align with common sense, then they are wrong. We have to change that and you can start right here," Welsh said.

The second key he discussed was "being better communicators."

When he asked if anyone in the crowd of more than 1,800 knew the reason why tuition assistance was cut-off last year, only one person raised their hand.

"We have to fix this as an Air Force and we have to get better at this," Welsh said. "Our people deserve answers and we are trying to share them, but they are just not getting to you. If you can let me know what works, then I will let you know we will try it."

His final key to success for the Air Force future is, "we have to care more."

"I have already told you I am working with the best people on Earth and you have the best families supporting you, but even with that support we will never care about each other enough," Welsh said.

He went on to mention the many challenges facing the Air Force right now, from force management to sexual harassment.

"I believe the only solution to those things is not another Air Force program -- it is caring more about each other," Welsh said. "It's understanding who the person next to you really is, what they think, how they feel, what affects them and how you can impact their life in a positive way.

"If you don't know the story of your Airmen, you can't lead them," he said. "It is really simple; learn their stories as the more we know about each other, the better we can take care of each other. The better we take care of each other, the less of all this other stuff we deal with and the more we focus on our job. That's who we are and that's the Air Force we want to be."