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Top enlisted leader addresses top issues facing Airmen

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy (left) asks Senior Airman Dussie Poole a question about electronic warfare pods March 18, 2010, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Chief Roy's two-day visit to the base included tours of units within the various wings and speaking with junior enlisted and senior leadership on Air Force issues. Airman Poole is assigned to the 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy (left) asks Senior Airman Dussie Poole a question about electronic warfare pods March 18, 2010, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Chief Roy's two-day visit to the base included tours of units within the various wings and speaking with junior enlisted and senior leadership on Air Force issues. Airman Poole is assigned to the 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- The top enlisted Airman addressed some of the top issues facing Airmen during a visit here March 17 and 18.

The role battlefield Airmen play in deployed operations is an area of focus because it ties into one of the Air Force's priorities, said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy.

"I am absolutely impressed with the missions our Airmen are doing," the chief said. "Their ability to do multiple missions ranging from inside the wire, at the wire and outside the wire is phenomenal. Our (joint expeditionary tasked) Airmen are doing amazing things and are very excited about the role they are serving. From how well they are trained to how they are employed, they are exceptional in the roles they're filling."

Appropriate combat training is essential to preparing battlefield Airmen.

"We are constantly looking at the training our Airmen receive and improving or adding to that knowledge," Chief Roy said. "Through conversations with these Airmen, we've been able to address their concerns and help prepare them in the best possible manner."

Another area the chief is focused on is physical fitness. He said physical fitness isn't just a goal anymore for today's Airmen; it's a requirement. He added being physically fit allows Airmen to be employed by combatant commanders.

"(Fitness) is essential," he said. "We are in combat every single day, and it's a proven fact that you perform better when you are in shape. Being in shape helps a person deal with the stresses of deployed life and daily routines."

A long-range benefit of the improved physical training program is creating a healthier, more sustainable service, he said.

"Not only does it help cut healthcare costs, but also it prolongs a healthy lifestyle and sets the foundation for a better quality life in the future," Chief Roy said.

Another hot topic the chief is focused on is family. In accordance with the Year of the Air Force Family initiative, the chief hopes to bring more awareness to the needs of families and the struggles they face when someone deploys.

"Programs like the Key Spouse program are so important because they help prepare families for anything and sets them up for success," he said. "(These programs) highlight the unique challenges they face and restore a sense of community, and ... they help families settle back in when they come home."

Another just as important group that shouldn't be overlooked in the Air Force family is the single Airman.

"It's important we don't forget our single Airmen," Chief Roy said. "I don't mean just the young Airmen in the dorms, either. Every one of our Airmen needs to have a support system, and we need to do a better job of taking care of each other."

Chief Roy also touched on the importance of managing the force and alleviating as much strain as possible on overstressed, undermanned career fields.

"We need to continue to review the (operations) tempo of these Airmen," he said. "One way to retain Airmen in critical career fields is to offer re-enlistment bonuses. Another is to develop a way to put more (people) in areas that need more manning, such as contracting."

One of Chief Roy's goals is to remedy personnel shortages by retaining the young Airmen of today to help mold tomorrow's Air Force.

"We need to find a way to keep these Airmen because their unique combat experiences will help shape the future of the Air Force," he said. "They will have something many of our senior leadership don't have: combat experience. This knowledge will change the way we do things as a service."

The knowledge combat-experienced Airmen have plays directly in line with leaderships' emphasis on increased training and educational opportunities, he added. Airmen are being encouraged to spend more time on professional military education as well as technical and off-duty education.

"We have some of the best professional education opportunities," he said. "We need to continue to make those opportunities available to our people to create more well-rounded Airmen."

For Eglin Air Force Base, in particular, the opportunities to broaden one's perspective on a joint and coalition level are unparalleled.

"We need to start participating in joint training, ranging from deployment training to PME," the 27-year veteran said. "The (F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter mission) will provide Airmen the unique opportunity to build strong relationships with our joint and coalition partners."

After seeing all aspects of the mission here, Chief Roy left with a better sense of what Eglin AFB officials bring to the fight.

"The scope of the multiple mission sets here is so large it affects every aspect of our military in joint and coalition environments," said the 16th chief master sergeant of the Air Force. "Eglin has a direct impact on all phases of military planning from testing weapons that will aid the warfighter on a strategic level to the tactical element on how well (Eglin) prepares for deployment."

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