CMSAF visits Hawaii, discusses AF-wide issues

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy recently visited Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and took some time to answer questions about Air Force-wide issues. The following is a transcript of his interview:

1. You were the Senior enlisted leader and adviser at (Pacific Command) and 5th Air Force prior to becoming the 16th chief master sergeant of the Air Force. How does it feel to be back in the Pacific theater?

It's awesome. Ms. Paula and I were here last Christmas and New Year's (Day), and we were able to spend some time in Japan and Korea with our Airmen and their families and share with them how much we appreciate what they do and the sacrifice they endure. But it's great to be back. We have enjoyed every single day of nearly 29 years of service regardless of where we served. Obviously the time we served in the Pacific is a highlight whether it be to Osan or Kunsan Air Bases in Korea, Japan, Guam, or here at U.S. PACOM, we have a lot of fun memories. It's especially good to see that our Airmen are completely focused, bringing the full power of America's Air Force to promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

2. PACAF (Airmen) contributed heavily to Operation Tomodachi and is involved in ongoing humanitarian missions through its Pacific Angel exercise series. How do you feel humanitarian and military-to-military engagements in the Pacific contribute to today's fight?

When I worked at Camp Smith, Hawaii, home of U.S. Pacific Command, you could not over emphasize the importance of humanitarian assistance and what it does for a nation, what it does in the hearts and minds of people across the Pacific. One of our most trusted allies is Japan and having served in Japan and having numerous friends in Japan, it's our nature as Americans to help people. We have capabilities beyond most militaries, and it is the willingness to use those capabilities that makes us who we are. Other people have similar capabilities, but they may not have the same intent or will. That's what makes us Americans. Humanitarian assistance is so important. You can make a direct correlation between human assistance and national security, and you can draw that line in numerous ways. Building partner nation capacity is something that we have worked extensively in the PACOM area of operations. It's something that we call phase zero operations, and it takes place before we ever go to battle. The fact that we can have relationships with partner nations, helping them build their capacity so that we can rely on them as they rely on us is imperative and at the end of the day, it promotes peace and stability in the region. We've done a good job at it, and we will continue to do those things.

3. Among other factors being considered to further the development of Airmen, can you explain what is currently on the table with regard to going to a single training record or system - and what the impact or gain of such an initiative might be?

One of the things we started is this initiative of bringing back one training record system. Right now we have multiple training record systems whether it's electronic or hard copy. We need to have one electronic record system. We did a call out to career field managers to find out their requirements, and it's time to press forward with it. We are working with the Air Education Training Command to make sure we do this in synchronization with their activities. We have some thoughts of when we would like to see it, but it's out there a little ways. It takes a while to go through a system like this. We had something that was coming, but unfortunately the system broke. This is too important to let it just continue the way it is. We have to work through this, and it needs to be an electronic method.

4. Because of the nation's ongoing budgeting difficulties and our fiscally constrained environment, lawmakers are discussing options with regard to changing the future military retirement system. As the Air Force's top enlisted leader, can you tell us what is currently being discussed at the higher levels with regard to military retirements and benefits?

I talked to Airmen and their families. It's one of their primary concerns. This is true across all services. Today, I talked to joint partners, and they are concerned just like Airmen are concerned. The bottom line is a decision has not been made. Ultimately, it's a decision that will be made by Congress. There are a couple things I will challenge our folks with. We are all American citizens, which gives us certain liberties and freedoms. One of them is to vote. The fact is that most of our Congressmen and Senators have not served in a uniform like us. I believe it would be wise for them to understand what a typical servicemember endures every single day. It would be wise for them to understand that before they make that critical decision because we are not a civilian force, we are not a union. The fact is our Airmen are very young and have a lot of responsibility -- we are a highly educated force. If you want to sustain an all volunteer force that has served this nation very well, sometimes you have to pay for that. We have to provide that information to the decision-makers so that they can make the right decision. We cannot afford to hollow our force.

5. With the current force restructure, what does the Air Force of the future look like for young Airmen?

We have to look at force structure. We have about 332,000 Active Duty Airmen and about 698,000 total force, and we've stayed at that number for years. Secretary Donley and Gen. Schwartz have focused in on that number, not because it's a number, but because it's what our combatant commanders have asked of the U.S. Air Force. That number is not just pulled out of the sky. As the nation goes through this fiscal constraint, it will tell us as an air force what is required of us which may force a service restructure. Here is the bottom line: We are the finest air force in the world and part of the best military in the entire world. What makes us that are the people. It's the people that make our Air Force and the Department of Defense strong. We have to make sure we don't hollow our force. There are ample and there will be ample positions for good, outstanding Airmen to serve today and in the future. What we need people to do is focus on the mission of today.

6. Any final words?

Again it is good to be back in the Pacific. The opportunity to share a bit about what's going on in D.C. and hopefully we are able to put some people at ease about the things they read about. We still have a mission to do, and it requires both the member and the family. We continue to focus on family through different forums. It is great to be back here, and I would just say to all the Airmen to focus on the mission and take care of each other. We have some challenges ahead of us, but it's much bigger than just taking care of yourself and wingman; it's about taking care of each of us. We need to expand that out a little bit and take care of all Airmen, not just those that we are familiar with.