AFMC town hall addresses vaccines, telework, command climate
By Marisa Alia-Novobilski, Air Force Materiel Command
/ Published February 15, 2021
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) --
Telework, the coronavirus vaccine, hiring, diversity and more were topics of focus during the Air Force Materiel Command virtual town hall Feb. 3.
More than 5,000 command personnel tuned into the live event featuring Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., commander of AFMC along with Patricia M. Young, AFMC executive director, and Chief Master Sgt. Stanley C. Cadell, AFMC senior enlisted advisor. The 90-minute event yielded more than 500 questions and comments from across the command, with the leadership team providing frank, honest responses across a myriad of subject areas.
Bunch kicked off the event by discussing the COVID-19 vaccine and command efforts to vaccinate the large, widespread AFMC population while ensuring adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and military health guidelines. He lauded the efforts of medical teams in executing vaccinations and urged patience and continued diligence in following the coronavirus safety protocols.
“We are aggressively working through the priorities. We are following the guidelines that have been provided, and a lot of people have gotten their shots. And that's a big step,” Bunch said. “Now I want to add caution with that. Just because we get some folks that have the vaccine, that does not mean we're not going to have to continue to wear masks. (We need to stay) socially connected but keep our physical distance and make sure that we're doing the right things.”
Bunch also touched upon vaccine safety and addressed Airmen concerns about potential adverse actions as a result of declining to receive a shot.
“The vaccine went through a rigorous review, and it's safe to use. When my time comes up, and I get offered the vaccine, I will be taking the vaccine very quickly,” Bunch said. “For those Airmen that decide they don't want to for a variety of different reasons, I encourage them to talk with the medical community and get the facts. Right now it is not mandatory, but if an Airman declines, then we do need to document it. There's no adverse action. It's just our way of tracking that it was offered and that they decided not to take the vaccine. That does not mean they can't come back and get it later.”
Also related to the response to COVID-19, the leaders addressed a few questions pertaining to work-life balance and support resources available to AFMC Airmen navigating life amidst the challenges of the pandemic environment. The Employee Assistance Program, Military One Source, the Civilian Health Promotion Services, and tutoring resources were among those discussed during the event.
“COVID(-19) fatigue is real … and we are all trying to balance a lot of things,” Cadell said. “We have lots of resources out there for you. We just need you to be open to those and ask for help. And let us know how we can help, too.”
With many AFMC Airmen still working from home, the topic of telework drew a lot of questions and comments from across the command during the event. Leaders were quick to laud the workforce on how they continued to execute the command mission effectively in the telework environment and noted ongoing efforts to finalize the command telework guidelines and develop a set plan for the post-pandemic ‘new normal.’
“Right now it's definitely a focus,” Bunch said. “I'll be reviewing the telework guidelines this weekend—that's my weekend homework. We're going to try to get that finalized and get it out so the centers and everybody can start implementing. We’re also trying to make sure we have the right tool sets in place … computers and support networks so we can make this happen.”
While telework and COVID-19 were among the most popular questions and comments fielded during the event, the leaders also discussed the ongoing command diversity efforts, the importance of having a culture of accountability, manpower and hiring initiatives, and performance awards. They also addressed questions and comments pertaining to leadership accountability and the importance of creating a work environment where all Airmen and civilians have the ability to achieve and succeed.
“We need to hold our leaders accountable. (Leaders) are shaping lives and executing a mission (and) we need to hold them accountable if they're not creating the right work environment,” Bunch said. “All of this is focused on driving transparency and building trust with our workforce. We won't have the workforce we need to do the AFMC mission if we don't have a foundation of trust.”
The leaders also took time to address civilian performance plans and award distribution, reiterating the focus on individual contributions as the primary factor in the feedback-award cycle. In other words, Young said, individuals are awarded based on their contributions to the mission—not their contributions in comparison to another at the same rank or grade.
“Pay-for-performance is what Congress and OPM has put in place … and we reward performances individually,” Young said. “We have the largest AcqDemo workforce in the Air Force. We have developed our business rules with our center leadership, and it is management and leadership’s job to enact the pay pools under this guidance and these rules. That’s where transparency comes in.”
However, in order to ensure the system works as intended, employees need to ask for performance feedback and review their contribution plans to make sure they are meeting their goals, Young said.
“As an employee, you need feedback to know the areas that you might need to improve or the areas that you're just crushing it. That will help you write your own assessment to your contribution plan,” Young said. “We can then look at your record …. and we're going to reward you for the contributions that you performed during the appraisal period.”
The event closed with AFMC leadership thanking the attendees and reiterating the importance of the command to the Air Force’s success across the spectrum.
“Thank you for what you're doing. You are making a huge difference. I am so proud of everything that you are accomplishing and our Air force cannot succeed without you,” Bunch said.