Chief of staff to senior enlisted leaders: 'Maximize potential of Airmen'

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brannen Parrish
  • Air University Public Affairs
The Air Force's top uniformed officer told senior enlisted leaders from across the Air Force here May 4 that the case to maximize the potential and performance of every Airman has never been more compelling.

"Today, more than ever, tactical effects can have strategic consequences," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. "In many instances, mission success hinges on Airmen outside the wire, making split-second decisions in a highly dynamic environment in which black and white choices are rare, and the many shades of gray can challenge even the most brilliant and competent among us."

Speaking to about 375 Air Force, joint and coalition attendees at the 2010 Senior Enlisted Leader Summit, General Schwartz noted that fiscal constraints and the smallest active-duty force in the Air Force's 63-year history requires leaders to focus on deliberate development -- the right experience, training and education at the right time -- to sustain the service's ability to perform assigned missions.

"We must be creative in our approach, utilizing a variety of ways and means to deliver the appropriate technical, cultural, or corporate information in a timely and effective manner," he said. "That means that we must innovate, even when it makes us uncomfortable."

General Schwartz advised enlisted leaders to emphasize and inspire performance while demonstrating genuine concern for Airmen.

The mediums available to leaders can range from "old-fashioned mentoring" and "face-to-face chats" to newer, Internet-based methods of communication, he said. Whatever the medium, guidance, motivation and leadership are critical.

"However you do it, remember this: every moment that you take to impart knowledge and experience to junior Airmen who look up to you, you are in fact mentoring," the general said. "We must all take every opportunity to do so, and ensure that our expectations are crystal clear."

In closing, the general asked the group of leaders to focus on not just the professional development of their Airmen, but also on their personal well-being.

Acknowledging a rise in suicides throughout the Air Force family over the past three years, General Schwartz called on enlisted leaders to act. He encouraged them to arrest the trend by identifying stresses and failed relationships among people and intervening, even if they are reluctant to ask for help.

"Do not, for a single moment, accept the needless loss of a teammate as the cost of doing business," he said. "It isn't the cost of doing business -- not now, not ever. This is a leadership issue for our Air Force. Let's apply -- you and me -- our collective will to this problem, as we do so well in our other military missions."