MANTA FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Ecuador (AFPN) --
Some Airmen are not getting information they need to make them better and more productive, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley said.
That is why he believes the start of a roll call program, which he said could start "within days," will help bridge the communications gap between senior Air Force leaders and Airmen around the globe.
"Our goal is to keep our Airmen informed," the Air Force's top enlisted leader said before departing Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. "To make sure that information [they receive] is current and easy to understand."
The chief said the first topic for the roll call, which will come in the form of Roll Call Notes on the Air Force Web site, Air Force Link, is still pending. But he said the topics are of concern to Airmen -- chosen from their feedback during the chief's many travels.
"We need, as leaders, to make sure our Airmen are informed," he said. "I want to hear what these Airmen have to say."
The chief said supervisors are the key to getting top-level Air Force information to Airmen. He believes face-to-face communication will help Airmen find out what is going on in the Air Force. But it is two-way street, he said. At roll calls, supervisors also have an important avenue to also find out about Airmen's needs.
Chief McKinley is enthused about the roll call program and its potential to help top to bottom communication.
"Because keeping our Airmen informed and finding out what's going on with them and what their questions are is better for the whole Air Force," he said.
To reach Airmen, the roll call program will revolve around Roll Call Notes available each week on the Air Force's Web site, Air Force Link, the chief said. The notes will have information all Airmen need to know about the Air Force each week. The goal is for supervisors across the service to hold roll calls to pass this information and get feedback from their Airman.
The chief said there are several reasons driving the effort to bring back roll calls. One is to communicate better. Another is to get Airmen out from behind the computer, where some leaders expect them to find out about what is going on in the Air Force.
"But our Airmen, they work long hours. And when they're finished with their long days, a lot of times they don't have time or don't really want to get on the Air Force Web link and search and find out what's going on," the chief said.
Another reason for the roll calls is to take Airmen back to their heritage. In the past, most supervisors had daily roll calls to pass on and receive information. Some units still have roll call, but most do not.
The chief remembers his past duties as a crew chief, and how daily roll calls made clear what each Airmen had to do that day.
"When I was an aircraft mechanic, we always had roll call," he said. "We'd meet with Airmen every morning before we went (to work) and find out what mission we had for the day and how many aircraft we were going to launch, how many tires we needed to change -- whatever."
But the meetings also gave supervisors the opportunity to look Airmen "in the eye and see how they were doing and to make sure they were fit before they went out there and climbed over the back of an F-4 (Phantom)."
Going back to having roll calls is good for Air Force business, he said.
"The more we know about our Airmen, the safer they're going to be and the better our Air Force is going to be," he said.
Chief McKinley flew to Manta, a busy base that is the center of the U.S. war on drugs in Latin America. It is the second stop of his four-day, four-base tour of U.S. Southern Command forward operating bases. As part of the trip, the chief is getting an in-depth orientation on Air Force operations in the command's region, which covers all of Central and South America and the Caribbean.
The mission will also allow him to see Airmen's contributions to the command's operations. And he will also hear the Airmen's concerns during question-and-answer sessions and other gatherings.
At Manta, Airman 1st Class Lauren Walker is an airborne radar technician who flies on counterdrug missions in the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft. She is deployed for the first time from the 764th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
The Airman, originally from Las Vegas, Nev., said she relished the chance to talk to Chief McKinley.
"I think it's great the chief is getting quality time with Airmen and our leadership," Airman Walker said. "The chief being here is good for morale, and it's important he get a chance to address issues we might be able to cover at the squadron level."
The chief received a briefing on the mission of Manta's 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Javier Delucca wants the chief to take back to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley a key message: Manta is a base the United States needs. The colonel from Roseville, Calif., told the chief that Manta is not only effective in the counterdrug effort, but that it is also important for the development of the city of Manta.
The colonel, whose unit supports a joint inter-agency counterdrug effort, said he would love to sit down with the chief and discuss the future of the forward operating location, which could close in 2009 if the United States and Ecuador do not agree to another extension.
"I'd love to let the chief know how important the mission is here and that the chief of staff should make it a priority to keep the FOL open, if at all possible," the colonel said.
Chief McKinley said it is these kinds of concerns, from Airmen of all ranks, which he likes to take back to the Pentagon and brief General Moseley.Comment on this story
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