CSAF discusses 'evolving force' with deployed Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force chief of staff visited Airmen from the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing and the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command April 23 at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan, to talk about current Air Force issues.

Gen. Norton Schwartz started his remarks with an exercise involving the crowd. He named different mission specialties and asked people to raise their hands when their Air Force specialty was called out, showing the diversity in the crowd. This led into the general's first point.

"Everybody in this room matters," he said. "We are a big Air Force family and we have folks that do a lot of different things. We should be proud of who we are and what we do, but one thing we should not do is let that pride interfere with the whole team coming together to get the job done."

The general then transitioned into talking about the budget concerns facing the Air Force.

He said that in the current economic climate it would be irresponsible for the Air Force to carry on with a business-as-usual mindset. He said cuts will be made in a responsible manner and great efforts will be made not to weaken the force.

"The logic is to get smaller to maintain quality," he said. "This is so that each one of you can devote your talent, conviction and commitment to an organization that remains the best and most feared Air Force on the planet."

The general's next topic of conversation was Air Expeditionary Force Next. He said it was remarkable that deployed wings are able to build a cohesive team with personnel from many different home stations. He said in the future it would make more sense for home station or adjacent units to deploy together. If personnel have a familiarity with each other before a deployment, they can really hit the ground running when they arrive at the AOR. The plan is for bases that are in the same regional area to support a major deployment, he said.

Schwartz said this would also add some stability and fairness to the deployment process.

"The second part of AEF Next will be to better align the deployment and assignment cycles," he said. "So we don't have trusted, ready and experienced people leaving shortly before their unit deploys or have those who are just coming home from a deployment going to a unit that is about deploy again."

The general said the planned changes to the AEF are more akin to a refinement than to a major surgery.

The general also discussed the rising suicide rate in the Air Force. So far there have been 37 suicides this year in comparison to 25 at this point last year. He said it is an alarming trend that needs to be addressed by everybody.

"This is painful and it's something we have to collectively do something about," he said. "Don't let a teammate make this very permanent decision. This is family business."

The general urged anyone who is a having a difficult time to get the help they need. He said there would be no career risk for those who sought help.

After he was done speaking, Schwartz addressed questions from the audience.

Staff Sgt. James Derrickson, 439th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron security forces adviser, said he was impressed by the general's speech and he felt the visit showed that top leadership appreciates the efforts of Airmen in Afghanistan.

"It was very insightful; he gave great answers to some relevant questions," he said. "He helped us understand where the Air Force is going in the future."

The general concluded his talk by making a point about how vital Airmen's efforts were to the United States. He said it is every Airman's duty to ensure the American people don't lose confidence in the Air Force's capabilities.

"If the American people lose their faith in the Air Force, where do they go? Because of that, we all have a special obligation to do the right thing," he said.