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Chief master sergeant of Air Force speaks to Guardsmen in home state

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy addresses about 360 attendees at the third joint Michigan National Guard Senior Noncommissioned Officer Conference Feb. 6, 2010, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Chief Roy is a native of Monroe, Mich. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Clancey Pence)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy addresses about 360 attendees at the third joint Michigan National Guard Senior Noncommissioned Officer Conference Feb. 6, 2010, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Chief Roy is a native of Monroe, Mich. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Clancey Pence)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AFNS) -- The Air Force's top enlisted leader spoke to more than 360 Michigan Army and Air National Guardsmen at a senior noncommissioned officer conference at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel here Feb.6.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy, who represents the highest enlisted level of leadership in the Air Force, grew up in Monroe, Mich., and said he enjoyed the opportunity to speak to members of his home state's National Guard.

"It's great to be back home," said Chief Roy, who has many family members in Michigan. "It's great to see how Michigan continues to evolve."

Chief Roy, who has been in the Air Force for 27 years, stressed the importance of the Army and Air National Guards integrating with each other and their active-duty counterparts. He said getting servicemembers from all branches to work together gives the military its strength.

"When you talk about total force integration, it's more than just words; it's something you have to believe in, and it's something you have to take action on," Chief Roy said.

The Michigan National Guard certainly has been taking an active role in total force integration. Since 2001, they have deployed more than 12,500 Soldiers and Airmen. Chief Roy said this participation makes missions successful and fills voids that active-duty service members cannot fill alone.

"The capabilities that a typical Guardsman brings in are more than just the [Air Force specialty] they have," Chief Roy said. He added that he has witnessed Guardsmen using skills acquired outside military training, such as farming, to aid overseas operations.

During the conference, Chief Roy also addressed the importance of senior NCOs mentoring junior enlisted personnel. He said one of the biggest challenges senior NCOs face is ensuring their subordinates are mission ready.

"First and foremost, we are a nation at war, and that's what we need to remain focused on," Chief Roy said.

Chief Roy said all senior NCOs must ensure they organize, train and equip their service members properly for each mission. He said this conference and similar conferences are important because they allow Guardsmen to network, build relationships, and share ideas.

"When you get into combat, that's not the time to establish relationships," Chief Roy said. "Relationships are established prior to [being in the fight]."

In addition to building relationships, Chief Roy said the Guard must focus on being flexible and willing to meet the nation's changing needs.

The Michigan Air National Guard has proven its flexibility. The 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., officially replaced its F-16 Falcons with A-10 Thunderbolts in 2008. That year, the wing also replaced its C-130 Hercules cargo planes with KC-135 Stratotanker refuelers. Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Cutler, the adjutant general for the state of Michigan and the director for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said the Michigan ANG has been extremely effective in these transitions.

"Most of the time in the Air National Guard, that's about 30 years worth of transformation," General Cutler said, "but it's all happening in about three years."

General Cutler said the Michigan National Guard has been busy with deployments and transitions, but the servicemembers have been working hard and making operations run smoothly.

"I am deeply appreciative of what you're doing," General Cutler told Guardsmen at the conference.

Chief Roy said he also appreciates the Michigan National Guard's efforts, and although he said he finds the state's economic struggles disheartening, he said he is impressed with its residents' motivation and determination.

"The resiliency of Michiganders is still there," Chief Roy said. "It really is good to be back."

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