DAF senior leaders speak at Air Force Sergeants Association conference

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Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger Towberman and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass spoke with more than 3,000 Airmen and Guardians at the 2023 Air Force Sergeants Association Professional Education and Development Symposium in Dallas, Aug. 9.

The three-day event focused on understanding the strategic competition, the role of service members in building the Force of the Future, professional development, networking and insights from senior service leaders.

Kendall’s remarks touched upon the latest developments within the Department of the Air Force and future efforts to ensure the department remains focused and ready.

“I think we have to rethink everything — we have to rethink everything we're doing, and thinking about, are we optimized for the fight that we might actually be called upon to go do, the stressing case, the pacing challenge as we call it in National Defense Strategy,” Kendall said. “I don't think we're there yet. I think you're going to have to help us get there. You’re going to have to think about your units and your readiness and what you need to be doing to be more ready than you are today.”

Bass echoed this sentiment.

“In the future, we will face sophisticated competitors who will not fight fair,” Bass said. “They will use any and all domains to beat us. In order for us to compete, deter and win, we need Airmen who are willing to challenge the status quo and who can adapt and evolve to stay ahead.”

Kendall reiterated that so-called future security challenges have already arrived.

“It's just not an emerging threat; it’s not a future threat,” Kendall said. “It's a today threat, and it's just getting worse as we go through time.”

During his remarks, Kendall took a moment to highlight the common theme of a variety of leadership mantras across the DAF.

“You hear General Brown talk about Accelerate Change or Lose — the idea that we have to move forward quickly, or we might face pretty serious consequences operationally. You hear General Saltzman talk about competitive endurance and the necessity of being competitive and staying in a position of leadership over time, and you hear CMSAF talk about, ‘What got us here won't get us there,’” Kendall said.

“It seems like it’s confusing, that all these different leaders have these different slogans they want to use, but we're all talking about the same thing. We're all talking about the fact that we could have a war, and we could lose one, and that’s a pretty big deal. And if we're not ready, there could be very, very serious consequences for our country and for the planet.” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall

Kendall also emphasized that preparing for conflict is not the same as hoping for one, but rather, preparation is the best way to prevent armed hostilities.

“I gave a talk earlier this morning and somebody asked me why I was getting ready for war with China,” Kendall said. “Why would I want war with China? I do not a war with China. Nobody wants a war with China, but the way to prevent one is for us to respond. Let them know we will fight, and if we do, we will win.”

Kendall closed his remarks with gratitude to enlisted Airmen and Guardians.

“I hadn't gotten to know the NCO corps of the Air Force and the Space Force until more recently,” Kendall said. “I am incredibly impressed with you. You are amazingly professional, amazingly proficient technically, great team players — we have the human capital we need to be successful.”

Bass emphasized the need for standards and discipline amid rising security challenges.

“A strong military is a disciplined military and we are the strongest Air Force in the world because of our commitment to discipline and high standards,” Bass said. “Our nation is counting on us to be the Force of the Future and ready now. As Airmen, we can never forget that we serve in a Profession of Arms — a higher calling.”

Bass also spoke on the Force of the Future and its role in national defense.

“Make no doubt about it,” Bass said. “The force we have today and the Force of the Future is an operational imperative.”

In keeping with the conference’s theme of “Back to Basics,” Bass provided additional details on the Force Development Ecosystem to help build the next generation of strong, informed, empowered enlisted Airmen.

“How we recruit, train and retain the talent that we need absolutely matters,” Bass said. “We must all focus on accelerating change and modernizing a force in a world that is rapidly changing. Our strength lies in our unity and our ability to grow beyond what got us here.”