Gen. Schwartz to Airmen: 'We are a family'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod R. Chavana
The chief of staff of the Air Force had a message for Airmen during an Airmen's Call here March 11: "We are a family and everyone in this room counts.

"This is a big-tent Air Force," Gen. Norton Schwartz said. 

"In our business, you don't measure your worth by your proximity to the fight," he said. "We should be proud of who we are and what we do."

The general did encourage a little "sibling rivalry" within the Air Force family, alluding to the friendly competition between Langley Air Force Base squadrons.

"That's the way it should be," he said. "It makes us better. The Air Force is all about performance, excellence and demanding the best from one another."

Demanding the best, he said, is "the Air Force way." Although the service's top Airman admitted mistakes have been made in the past, he emphasized the Air Force in many respects is a no-fail business where good intentions are not enough.

"We are not a corporation," he said. "If a customer doesn't like a particular business, they can go somewhere else. But the American people have no alternative for what we do. We have a special obligation to do things right, to do things well, to do whatever is required, wherever it is required, under whatever circumstances."

The general also fielded several questions from Airmen in the audience:

Question: As the first chief of staff in the modern era without a fighter pilot background, does this signal a change in focus for the Air Force?

Answer: It shouldn't be interpreted in any shape or form that some elements of our Air Force are ascendent and another isn't. That's not the way it is. Our Air Force is evolving, so there are some things like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that are growing because that's what our country needs. Some things are diminishing because we need less of that. It doesn't mean it's less important or that there isn't future in our Air Force.

If you don't think I am committed to making sure the Air Force will sustain its superiority by putting targets at risk any place, any time to maintain air dominance for the joint team, I am trying to persuade you otherwise.

Q: There are changes to how physical training tests are going to be administered. When will this happen?

A: The Air Force had a system that was too complicated and few understood it. In the works is a system that is simpler, that's professionally administered and that makes more sense. The major pieces are height and weight combinations and the assessment might be administered twice a year. The logic is fitness, readiness, health and appearance.

Fitness is fundamental to our performance as an Air Force. Another aspect is that the American people have invested in the Air Force and we need to maintain our health on their behalf. Fitness contributes to health, contributes to readiness and also makes us less demanding on the medical system.

Q: With the economy being the way it is, how will budget constraints hinder how the Air Force operates?

A: The United States can't be a superpower and certainly a foremost military power without a sound economy. We need to be disciplined and responsible. The Air Force is going to have budget cuts and will have to prioritize and make adjustments. We will have less capability on the high end, but we will have more capabilities in those things we will need most in the immediate future.

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