CMSAF visits Keesler
By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 25, 2014
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody, the service's highest ranking enlisted leader, visited Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Sept. 22-23.
During the visit, Cody and his wife, retired Chief Master Sgt. Athena Cody, toured base organizations, met with the Airmen who train and work here, hosted two all calls and spoke about the changes and constants of today's Air Force.
"The main purpose for our visit is to come out and thank our Airmen, to let them know that while we certainly have a lot going on in our Air Force, we're still thinking about them," Cody said. "It's also extremely important that we have the opportunity to interact with them and establish a dialogue where we get straight, candid feedback about what is going on where they operate in our Air Force."
A common subject for discussion was the impending changes to enlisted evaluation and promotion systems.
"Basically we're going to take the system and bring it to where it needs to be, and put the measures in place so it requires a level of discernment amongst our people, specifically when it comes to a promotion recommendation," Cody said. "We will decouple performance and promotion recommendations; performance will influence promotion, but they are not synonymous."
The new Airman Comprehensive Assessment, released in July 2014, was the starting point of the Enlisted Evaluation System overhaul. The changes to the feedback form will help clarify expectations and strengthen the relationship between supervisor and subordinate, he added.
"Chief Cody explained how important the new feedback form is to the conversation between supervisors and Airmen," said Master Sgt. Brian Johns, an 81st Training Wing career assistance advisor. "It's not just a form to fill out, it's a conversation. He also spoke to our NCO Professional Enhancement and Airman Leadership School students regarding the new EES, and they were very happy to have the new processes clarified."
Cody has been witness to many transformations in the Air Force, having graduated from technical training at Keesler AFB in 1985.
"A lot has changed, for both Athena and me," Cody said. "I tell our story together because it has been a journey, a career and a lifetime together and it started for both of us here nearly 30 years ago."
The chief and his wife attended air traffic control school together and returned to Keesler AFB several times throughout their careers.
"Technological advancements have nestled their way into Keesler over time, and a lot of the infrastructure has been dramatically updated," Cody added.
The historic importance of Keesler AFB has been evident throughout the years since its establishment in 1941, Cody said.
Airmen train here for jobs across the entire Air Force, and that has been a constant in Keesler heritage. A big difference for today's generation, however, is the knowledge of new Airmen.
"Airmen coming in today are more capable," Cody said. "A lot of that has to do with the evolution of education in society. They come in with a higher intellect because they've grown up in this time where they have access to a plethora of information."
Today's Airmen are also trained slightly different, technological advances aside.
"When Athena and I came in in the mid-80s, we were a Cold War-era type of force," Cody said. "We weren't teaching Airmen expeditionary skills. But the Airmen in our Air Force today are trained that way, so the idea of having a wingman to be there with you and to be able to rely on them takes on a different connotation. There was always this idea that it was important to take care of your fellow Airmen, but it has evolved over time."
Cody urged graduating Airmen to keep concepts learned in basic military and technical training, like wingmanship, as a part of their constant focus.
"They have to remember what it all started with -- this idea of being a part of something bigger than themselves and holding themselves to higher standards -- and have that at the forefront of everything they do."
Cody emphasized the Air Force core values as a foundation for a successful career.
"He explained that faith is a subunit of the Air Force core values," said Senior Airman Daniel Blas, an 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator. "That faith in leadership and in our Airmen is a part of our creed, even though it isn't explicitly listed."
In the current Air Force climate of change, stability can be found in Airmanship and in the mission.
"It's appropriate and fair to have questions and want to know what might be happening in their Air Force, but first and foremost we need to stay focused on the mission we have been assigned to do," Cody said. "Do your best every day. You've worked hard to be an Airman thus far, and it takes hard work every day to earn the privilege to be here."