AFMC virtual town hall addresses COVID-19, diversity, command future

  • Published
  • By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
  • Air Force Materiel Command

Diversity and inclusion, the coronavirus pandemic and the strategic direction of the Air Force Materiel Command were among the many topics covered during a virtual town hall, July 29.

Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., AFMC commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Stanley C. Cadell, AFMC command chief, addressed questions in front of a live, virtual audience during the event streamed live on the AFMC Facebook page.

“The most important thing I'm going to tell you today is just thank you for what you're doing. Each and every day you have fully embraced the mantra that I’ve used in the past: we execute our wartime mission each and every day,” Bunch said during opening remarks.

The event began with a discussion on AFMC successes during coronavirus restrictions. Bunch lauded the teamwork, innovation and dedication of Airmen across the command in ensuring critical missions remained on task while also supporting the Department of Defense-wide response to the pandemic. He cited the ongoing work by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Epidemiology Lab in COVID-19 testing, efforts to create protective gear leveraging 3D printing technology, the rapid embrace of telework in AFMC organizations and the creativity of Airmen in ensuring test missions remained on track, among others, as just some of the ways the command adapted to COVID-19.

“I am extremely proud of how you have continued to execute (our) mission in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In less than three months, we developed an entirely new system (the Negatively Pressurized Conex) to be able to transport ill Airmen in C-17 (Globemaster III) and C-130 (Hercules) that took Airmen from the Life Cycle Management Center … working together with members of the Air Force Research Laboratory, members of Air Force Test Center and members of the Sustainment Center. We did all that in less than three months and put a new capability out in the field,” Bunch said. “That's the power that we as the Air Force Materiel Command bring to the fight. And that's why you all are our most valuable resource.”

As discussion continued on COVID-19, Bunch talked about the importance of following local and command guidelines, including the use of face coverings, good hygiene and maintaining social distancing, as individuals across AFMC begin to return to the workplace, which he expects will operate much differently in the future.

“We learned a lot of lessons out of this, and there are going to be a lot of things that we don't go back to ever again,” Bunch said. “In many ways we had not been as embracing of telework … alternative work schedules and things like that, as we probably could have been. We’re now working on how we open up telework to additional people. We're now looking at how we do our job advertisements for the future to include telework. We're looking … to see how we reconfigure facilities … those are just a few of the examples.”

Following a brief discussion on the importance of social connection and resiliency, the town hall focus transitioned to diversity and inclusion — two key topics impacting every Airman and civilian across the Air Force.

“Folks, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got to own it,” Bunch said. “We need to talk to Airmen, but what that really means is we need to listen. My expectations are that we in command create an environment where every Airman has the opportunity to serve and succeed to their full potential.”

Adding to Bunch’s sentiments, Cadell addressed the importance of education and learning in the culture change process.

“It’s about dignity and respect for everyone we work with, so part of this is going out and learning,” Cadell said. “It’s finding out some of the barriers that have been out there for folks that maybe we don’t even realize. There are some institutional things that are causing frustration for some of our Airmen. And so we, as leaders, are responsible for taking a look at those and trying to remove those barriers.”

The town hall continued with a discussion of the importance of operational security in ensuring the Air Force maintains a competitive edge; and discussion on the strategic direction of the command, with an emphasis on the importance of education and training to ensure Airmen are prepared for future leadership roles across the service.

“We’re going to drive to improve. We’re going to drive to become more digital,” Bunch said. “We’re going to continue to do things like try to hire people faster, fill our needs faster, be more agile and get technology into the field at the speed of relevance.”

Additional topics addressed during the town hall included upcoming uniform and leave policies, the importance of mental health and resilience, and the importance of taking care of Airmen and their families for mission success.

“We recruit Airmen, both military and civilian … but we retain families,” Cadell said.

The event concluded with both leaders reiterating the importance of self-care and downtime to readiness and mission success.

“Anybody who tells me that they’ve got work, family, spiritual and fitness and health all aligned, perfectly balanced … I usually call those people liars,” Bunch said. “We’re all pulling and tugging and stressed with what we’re trying to do. You’ve got to be deliberate about it (downtime). And you’ve got to communicate with the family that may be around you … we need you for the long term.”