CAF: Retired chief says 'it's about a culture of caring'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Speaking to wing commanders and command chief master sergeants from across Air Mobility Command Jan. 24 for the command's first Comprehensive Airman Fitness, or CAF, conference, retired Chief Master Sgt. Rod Ellison's message came back to the same thing: "It's about a culture of caring."

Chief Ellison's message about "caring" was probably more than fitting for the conference at which he was speaking. It was organized to build on AMC's CAFculture that began in July 2010. As part of CAF, there are five "Cs" in its framework: caring, committing, communicating, connecting and celebrating.

"Caring," according to an AMC talking paper on the CAF culture states, "We express we care for ourselves as well as those around us by willfully exhibiting integrity, empathy and respect in what we choose to do and say. When respect is widespread, each person is willing to take the initiative and act for the good of the organization as well as those around them."

Chief Ellison, who is the former command chief for Air Education and Training Command, took that message even further in his discussion to the group of AMC leaders.

"Airmen don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care," he said. "It starts with you."

Chief Ellison relayed a personal story about when he was a young Airman in the early 1970s just starting off his career. He described how during a period of time he allowed himself to fall out of military standards. When a technical sergeant he worked for immediately noticed the infractions, the course of his military life and direction then changed.

"Every day for the next six weeks, I got to spend breakfast with three technical sergeants," Chief Ellison said.

During that breakfast, he said his uniform and appearance were inspected thoroughly and he had to sit at attention and answer questions.

While he knew it was a form of discipline, he added that it was also a demonstration by Airmen who took a vital interest in his life.

"If you look at it another way, here were three NCOs who took time out of their lives every day to help me become better," Chief Ellison said. "They took time out to show they cared."

It was those kinds of situations that Chief Ellis said can make a difference in an Airman's life.

"Once your Airmen know you care, they will listen to you and they will work harder for you," he said. "It's also about showing you care."

Perhaps the "caring" is growing across AMC because recent examples of acts of people helping people at AMC bases is evidence of that.

For example, at McConnell AFB, Kan., four Airmen from the 22nd Medical Group "spent a cold Saturday morning and afternoon assisting another Airman and his family move from an apartment and into their home on base," one report shows.

Also at McConnell, the wife of an Airman provided home-cooked meals to various families who were going through transitions: a family whose wife started law school, the family of an Airman who had surgery and various families who just moved into base housing.

At Grand Forks AFB, N.D., another report shows 319th Air Refueling Wing officials purchased five snowblowers, using Comprehensive Airman Fitness-related funds provided by Air Mobility Command.  Just before the 2010 holiday season, a number of volunteer Airmen used the blowers to clear snow for four families after a large storm came through the Grand Forks area. The effort was spearheaded by the wing first sergeants and chapel staff who also provided coffee and cocoa for the people who aided in the clearing.

In December 2010, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., base personnel conducted a "Holiday Cheer Fund" where money was collected to support Airmen in need during the holiday season.

And at Scott AFB, a report shows an NCO helped an Airman involved in a car accident as they were both heading to base one morning. The NCO stayed with the Airman and called the Airman's spouse, law enforcement and an emergency response team. The NCO also notified the Airman's squadron leaders of the accident and followed the Airman to the hospital where she was admitted to the emergency room. Through the day, the NCO stayed on until the situation was in better shape and there was "nothing left undone." In all, the NCO "sacrificed a complete duty day" to make sure the Airman and her spouse received the care and attention they needed.

There are many more examples but the important thing, as Chief Ellison stated, is people cared.

"Count each day and make every day count," Chief Ellison said. "It's about more than caring.  It's about a culture of caring. Our Airmen, their families and all who support them deserve it."