CMSAF Roy: Developing Airmen key to future success

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Richard A. Williams, Jr.
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy emphasized the evolution of training Airmen before a crowd of approximately 400 Airmen, industry officials and Air Force Association members here Feb. 24.

Roy, who spoke on the second day of the Air Force Association's 2012 Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition, told attendees that developing Airmen and working to unlock their full potential are keys to the success of the future force.

"We have great Airmen, we have a good process as to how we develop those Airmen and we need to evolve that process," Roy said.

With around 68 percent of Airmen in the Total Force joining after Sept. 11, 2001, and with an average age of 21 years upon enlistment, Roy said these Airmen tend to be a bit more mature than recruits were ten years ago, and they quickly get a different Air Force experience than the pre-9/11 force.

"In my view, we have the most combat hardened force that we have ever had," he said. "The experiences they have received over their tenure are certainly different than maybe mine over the last 30 years."

This means several challenges face leaders in today's Air Force, including how to train and mentor the 21st Century Airmen, many of whom have served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another significant challenge in today's Air Force is training Airmen in an effective, efficient manner using advanced technology, Roy said.

"Today's Airmen are digital natives," he said. "They know new technology, how it works, what it should look like and how it should interact."

"We have Airmen who are using this equipment, using laptops and other devices out on the airfield doing aircraft maintenance," he added.

These "digital natives" are certainly in tune with how to use the latest technology, and Roy is convinced the service can exploit that to better prepare Airmen to meet mission requirements.

Air Education and Training Command officials are looking into the concept of deploying training materials through electronic readers.

Airmen can already find promotion test study materials online, and Roy said Airmen are in many cases jumping at the chance to download these to their electronic devices.

"Some Airmen today get a link to their CDC's and they have a choice of a hard copy or a soft [electronic] copy," Roy said.

Many opt for the electronic CDC's because they get them immediately, he added.

With this in mind, Air University and the Air War College are both providing electronic materials for distance learning to their students with some success. This could become a viable way to enhance professional military education not only for active duty Airmen, but for Guardsmen and Reservists, of whom only 10 percent currently attend in-resident PME, Roy said.

"Digital media would allow everyone to get the most updated versions of material possible," Roy said, adding this would lead to earlier, more consistent exposure to Air Force institutional competencies, better preparing Airmen for mission requirements.

The use of new technologies could be a beneficial tool for developing Airmen from basic training until retirement, but Roy cautioned that it's not a fix-all.

Leaders must still use the proper mix of training and hands-on applications in order for Airmen to maintain their technological edge, said Roy.

"We have to make sure our Airmen are absolutely grounded in the idea of tactical expertise," Roy said. "Fundamentally that's who we are."

Reiterating earlier comments made by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Schwartz, Roy said, "We are going to have a smaller force so we need to make sure our Airmen, the right Airmen, are at the right place at the right time, with the right skills."