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CMSAF tours Edwards AFB, discusses fiscal realities, changes

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody visited with 412th Maintenance Group maintainers to thank them for their service July 14, 2014, on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Cody and his wife, Athena, were given a 412th Test Wing mission brief during their visit and spent time with Airmen at various units on base including, the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force, 412th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 412th Security Forces Squadron and the Edwards AFB tower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Aaron Lewis)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody visited with 412th Maintenance Group maintainers to thank them for their service July 14, 2014, on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Cody and his wife, Athena, were given a 412th Test Wing mission brief during their visit and spent time with Airmen at various units on base including, the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force, 412th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 412th Security Forces Squadron and the Edwards AFB tower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Aaron Lewis)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody, right, speaks with Airmen of the 412th Maintenance Group during his visit July 14, 2014, on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Aaron Lewis)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody, right, speaks with Airmen of the 412th Maintenance Group during his visit July 14, 2014, on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Aaron Lewis)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- The highest ranking enlisted member in the Air Force toured Edwards Air Force Base, California, July 14.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody, the 17th chief master sergeant appointed to the service's highest enlisted rank, and his wife, Athena, visited the high desert to meet with and thank Airmen and their families, and to get an up-close look at the local mission.

During an all call, Cody had a conversation with base personnel and updated them on the state of the Air Force and addressed concerns from the audience.

Cody emphasized he wanted to thank Airmen for their service and remind them that when they put their uniform on every day, they are a part of an amazing global Air Force mission. He added the military is more globally engaged now than any point in the history of the U.S. and it will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

"When people think that after Afghanistan we are all of a sudden going to start thinking back to what it was like 20-plus years ago, it is never going to be what it was like 20-plus years ago; that's not our Air Force of the future," Cody said. "We're going to be busy, we're going to be globally engaged; you're going to be busy, you're going to be globally engaged and we're going to have to shape our future so we can respond to those demands in the future. You do that every single day.

"At the end of 2015 we are going to be the smallest U.S. Air Force since we became an Air Force in 1947. That should be pretty humbling to every one of us who puts this uniform on -- every one of us who calls themselves an Airman."

Cody took several questions from Airmen in the audience, which mostly delved into the fiscal realities of the Air Force. He mentioned that during sequestration in 2013, the Air Force stood down more than 30 flying squadrons, something that has never been done in the Air Force. He added it will take years to get those units back to readiness and balancing readiness with current fiscal constraints will be made with "the best of the worst decisions."

Cody also addressed issues affecting the enlisted corps such as force management reductions and a new enlisted performance report.

An Airman asked why he sees recruiting commercials when force management is moving experienced, good and dedicated Airmen out of the Air Force through retention boards, early retirements and voluntary separation. Cody responded that the Air Force cycle never stops and efforts to balance overmanned career fields along with supplying undermanned fields remains the biggest challenge when reducing the size of the Air Force.

"This is constant process of assessing new Airmen and letting Airmen out; it never ends. It might get smaller, but it never stops," Cody said.

Cody emphasized that affected Airmen should look into the Air Guard and Reserve if they desire to continue serving.

Another huge endeavor that will be affecting enlisted Airmen is the overhaul of the EPR, which Cody said will take place during the next 18 months. There has been criticism, Cody acknowledged, that the current EPR ratings are often inflated.

The new Airman Comprehensive Assessment forms released in June are expected to pave the way for the overhaul of the EPR system.

"The ACA, which was the first domino to fall in this process, is the most important part of it," Cody said. "You may not think that way, but it really is, and you'll understand why over time. If feedback isn't meaningful and purposeful then you're never going to get where you need to be when it comes to performance. If you're not having the right type of feedback, if it's not real, you're never going to reach your full potential."

Cody said by the end of 2015, there should be new EPRs for all the enlisted ranks.

"We're getting after it and it's going to be okay," Cody said. "When you sit down with that ACA with your supervisor, have that meaningful and purposeful conversation. You should ask, 'What do I need to do to be the very best Airman I can be?' And then you decide if you're willing to do it. Your supervisor should be right by your side helping you achieve that goal."

Cody concluded the all call by giving a heartfelt appreciation for the Airmen’s service at Edwards AFB.

"Athena and I are simply here to say thanks," he said. "We talked about some pretty challenging things going on in our Air Force; we're going to get through it. We're counting on each and every one of you to shape the future of our Air Force. You need to stay focused on the mission. Don't lose focus on the mission; have faith in your leadership that they are not going to forget about you for one minute, because they're not."

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