CMSAF McKinley gets firsthand look at Offutt missions
By Staff Sgt. Drew Nystrom , 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 15, 2006
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFPN) -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley met with Airmen here and saw firsthand the diverse missions accomplished in support of the nation's defense.
While at Offutt AFB Sept. 5 to 8, the chief took the opportunity to speak at an "all hands call" at U.S. Strategic Command and an enlisted call for 55th Wing members.
Chief McKinley took over as the Air Force's top enlisted member in June and has been spreading his message of Airman pride ever since. Chief McKinley hit on many key points during his interactions with Airmen here, using personal anecdotes from a nearly 28-year career, humor and an unmistakable sense of concern for their well-being.
The chief said the Air Force has three main focuses that require every Airman's unwavering attention. First and most important, according to the chief, is winning the war on terrorism.
"The terrorists killed 3,000 innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. If they could have killed 30,000, 3 million or 30 million they would have. This enemy is relentless," Chief McKinley said.
The chief related how the war must be prosecuted for the sake of not only those who died on that day five years ago, but also for Americans like his four granddaughters and all Americans who deserve to enjoy the freedoms we have enjoyed. Winning the war requires constant vigilance and a 100-percent dedication to duty from all servicemembers, he said.
"You have a personal responsibility as an Airman to ensure you are properly trained and have the mental and physical ability to deploy when ordered, and do the very best job you can in whatever the Air Force asks you to do," the chief said.
Airman pride was another big topic the chief zeroed in on. He said pride in being an Airman begins in basic training and should be reinforced throughout an Airman's career. The chief said an easy but often overlooked way of reinforcing that pride is in the way Airmen are addressed.
"When we refer to our Airmen, don't refer to them as kids or troops," the chief said. "The Air Force doesn't send kids or troops to the desert to be put in harm's way. We send professional Airmen."
This simple clarification of the way Airmen are addressed underscores the professionalism expected of every Airman and lets even the most junior member know they are a part of the world's greatest Air Force, he said.
The chief's principle of Airman pride runs much deeper. It requires a reflection by each member of their character, personal appearance, physical fitness and compliance with the core values.
According to the chief, "We are all ambassadors of the United States and the Air Force 24 hours a day," and an Airman's conduct, both personally and professionally, should reflect that.
Along with pride, the chief emphasized the Wingman concept. Looking out for one another is part of everyone's duty, but especially for front-line supervisors, he said. They can play an important role in lowering the rate of suicides in the Air Force.
"The best way to combat suicide is through effective leadership," he said.
"Build a relationship of trust with your subordinates, so when something goes wrong in their lives they have someone who they know truly cares about them to go to for help," Chief McKinley said.
He said trust should begin to be built from the moment the supervisor meets a new Airman to welcome him to the base.
"Let the new Airmen know both the Air Force's and your expectations and standards from the beginning to set Airmen up for success," said the chief. "Supervisors can inspire others to greatness, by showing caring and understanding, showing them personal attention, and occasionally a little butt-chewing."
Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Bergstrom, a member of the 55th Wing Dental Squadron who attended the enlisted call, agreed.
"I wholeheartedly agree with the chief's idea of getting to know your subordinates, peers and superiors. You can better lead and follow if you understand their motivations and a little bit about the folks around you," she said. "If I know a little bit about them, I can offer assistance or advice."
Recapitalization of the Air Force was the chief's third area of focus. He said our Air Force is, without question, the best in the world, and ensuring we maintain that air superiority edge requires modernization of the entire Air Force. With a limited budget, he said, hard decisions have to be made regarding the use of available funds.
There will be difficult times ahead as Airmen are expected to accomplish more with less.
"But in the end," he said, "we will not only be a smaller Air Force, but more capable, lethal and efficient."