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NEWS | Aug. 18, 2010

CMSAF shares perspective about readiness, development, resiliency

By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Air Force's top NCO spoke at the Air Force Sergeants Association Professional Airmen's Conference Aug. 17, citing readiness, deliberate development and resiliency among Airmen and their families as his main focuses.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy said statistics of 40,000 Airmen deployed and 133,000 in combatant commands across the globe suggest Airmen are not only shaping the battlefield, but more than ever require training and development as they support and defend a nation at war.

"Apart from your own preparation and readiness, you also need to ensure your wingman is prepared," Chief Roy said. "We have thousands of Airmen that are forward deployed working with other services outside the wire, and doing that type of business every day."

To support Airmen at home and in forward locations, Chief Roy said he'd continue to work closely with the Air Force chief of staff to refine the unit deployment manager's role, increasing UDM training opportunities and giving the position more permanence and prominence in Airmen training cycles.

"As an expeditionary Air Force, some of the fundamental things we do are prepare for deployment, deploy and reintegrate," the chief said. "The UDM does all that for us ... but currently as an additional duty."

Senior leaders will also focus on Army and Air Force-hosted combat skills training locations such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and Ft. McCoy, Wis., to maximize their effectiveness to deployers.

With total force numbers of about 700,000 in contrast with the same numbers for active duty alone when he enlisted in 1982, Chief Roy said the force needs to be able to still meet the needs of combatant commander with significantly less Airmen.

"Why do we deliberately develop Airmen?" he asked the crowd of hundreds. "We're the smallest force we've ever been -- we must have to have the right Airmen at the right place at the right time."

He explained that experience, education and training are the three elements of deliberate development, designed to meet the Airman's personal and professional expectations while addressing the service's current and future requirements.

The continuum of learning involves not only assessing the service's requirements for current operations, but at the 10-, 15- and 20-year marks, the chief said.

"If we're not focused on it, we're going to miss the mark," he added.

He conceded a lapse in training milestones can slow professional development, such as the typical timeline between Airman Leadership School and the NCO Academy.

"For first line supervisors ... one of the most important positions we have in the United States Air Force, there's a 10 year gap there," Chief Roy said. "We need to close that gap."

The chief said he remains a vocal champion of adding courses, offering PME earlier in Airmen's careers and even testifying on Capitol Hill to ensure the system continues in the direction most beneficial to professional development.

"For the first time ever, enlisted PME is being looked at by the (Congress); so far they are satisfied with the system in place, but we know more improvements are necessary and will be made."

The chief said successful PME measures have included sending more Airmen to joint and coalition senior NCO and leadership courses, working with such organizations as the U.S. Coast Guard and the Singapore Advanced Leadership Course.

"Professional relationships are built in these environments," the chief said.

The chief closed with a discussion of resiliency, explaining the criticality of each of its four pillars: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

He repeated the importance of the wingman philosophy, providing sobering numbers for the year's suicide rates so far. The chief added relationships and finances, not deployments, are the most reported causes for attempted and completed suicides.

"At 64 suicides this year, we have to ask ourselves what's going on," Chief Roy said. "Even one is too many; it's important that we watch over each and every person."

The chief said the service's overall success will stem from not only being good wingmen, but the feedback Airmen provide leadership directly impacts programs affecting the force such as the deployment transition center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

"As we look at the focus areas of the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, we can tie each of them back to the Air Force's priorities," Chief Roy said.