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Chief chats about volunteerism, promotions, millennial Airmen

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody invites Airmen to ask him questions during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2015. The conference brings together Air Force leadership, industry experts, academia and current aerospace specialists from around the world to discuss the issues and challenges facing America and the aerospace community today. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody invites Airmen to ask him questions during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2015. The conference brings together Air Force leadership, industry experts, academia and current aerospace specialists from around the world to discuss the issues and challenges facing America and the aerospace community today. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody invites Airmen to ask him questions during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2015. The conference brings together Air Force leadership, industry experts, academia and current aerospace specialists from around the world to discuss the issues and challenges facing America and the aerospace community today. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody invites Airmen to ask him questions during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2015. The conference brings together Air Force leadership, industry experts, academia and current aerospace specialists from around the world to discuss the issues and challenges facing America and the aerospace community today. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Staff Sgt Jireh Aki, a installation antiterrorism officer at Joint Base Andrews, Md., asks Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody a question during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2015. Cody said each Air Force generation gets better with technology and education, but if they do not, then the leaders have failed them. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Staff Sgt Jireh Aki, a installation antiterrorism officer at Joint Base Andrews, Md., asks Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody a question during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2015. Cody said each Air Force generation gets better with technology and education, but if they do not, then the leaders have failed them. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- As the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2015 in Washington D.C., draws to a close, the Air Force’s top enlisted leader held a candid Q-and-A session to address issues of interest to the enlisted force Sept. 16.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody fielded questions ranging from the promotion system and the whole Airman concept to the post-millennial generation and even his personal reaction to the promotion announcement of French train hero Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, who pins on staff sergeant Nov. 1.

Volunteerism and promotion clarification

Cody clarified remarks pertaining to a recent Air Force Times article in which Air Force Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, headquarters military force management policy director, indicated volunteering will no longer influence who gets promoted or not under the service's new enlisted promotion system.

“In no way did he say we don’t value volunteering in the Air Force,” the chief emphasized. But, he added, “You’re not going to volunteer your way into a promotion” within the construct of an all-volunteer force.

Of the whole person concept, the chief warned against leaning toward either extreme. “The idea that … the person that did everything but their job was the one we’re advancing before others I completely disagree with and I would say it’s unfounded.”

On the other hand, Airmen are more than technicians and should look at service as something “larger than our vocation,” the chief said.

“There’s a ton of things that fall into the whole person concept that we would value as an Air Force … as we represent the American people, as we do things for others,” the chief explained. “But we’re not going to talk about any of that unless you’re good at your job -- because if you’re not good at your job yet, you need to get good at it. Then we can talk about everything else.”

As such, the chief said Air Force leaders readjusted the enlisted evaluation form to better place volunteerism into context.

Within the structure of normal human capital, volunteering, Cody stressed, can range from little or nothing some years to simple building of esprit-de-corps in a unit to stepping up to save lives while off-duty like Stone did.

“It wasn’t until after he did the heroic act and stopped the bleeding in a guy’s neck that he was actually doing what we trained him to do as a medic.”

Promotion opinions on social media

Not surprisingly, the question about the fairness of the Airman’s immediate promotion to staff sergeant once he pins on senior airman in November arose.

Even some senior leaders have taken to social media to question whether or not the stripe was right in light of the efforts of so many other deserving Airmen.

“Everybody’s got an opinion (and) this idea that I’m going to jump on the negative narrative and try to defend our decision -- we don’t have to defend anything at all,” Cody asserted over audience applause. “We did the right thing and we know we did the right thing.”

The chief added that he’s happy to engage in person about the decision, but urged Airmen to consider the measured and caring choices of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

“Nobody has more heart, nobody cares more about our Air Force and is making it better,” Cody said of the general.

Leading the millennial, post-millennial generation

Of leading the post-millennial generation, Cody said senior leaders must learn about the younger generation as people, what they bring to the table and leverage it “like there’s no tomorrow.”

“Whatever that next generation is, they’re going to be better than the generation before them,” the chief said. “We’re going to give them better tools; they’re going to come out better -- and if they don’t, than we have failed.”

Ultimately, the chief urged today’s Airmen to avoid feeling daunted by challenges. “It’s only when you’re faced with these types of things that you actually do advance.”

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