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Commentary: Global Strike Command Chief's words on leadership

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Keith Camferdam
  • Executive Assistant to the AFGSC Command Chief
I'm a fuels guy. It's what I've done my whole Air Force career--until now. I currently serve as the Executive Assistant to the Command Chief at Air Force Global Strike Command--Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson, Jr.

Recently, the Chief gave a speech during the Airman Leadership School graduation at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., entitled "Never Forget Where You Came From." I would like to share an excerpt which really hit home for me, in terms of my past experience with and core beliefs about leadership.

"Tonight, you will become responsible for our most important resources: America's sons and daughters, their sisters and brothers, and their mothers and fathers," Chief Johnson said. "Effective tomorrow, there will be people all over the world who will not know your name, nor who you are, nor what you look like, but will hold onto a prayer that you will train, lead, and care for their loved one."

The Chief then invited the Airmen to pause for a moment to think about what this responsibility meant.

"There is no greater calling than to take responsibility for another human being, but that is what this evening's graduation represents--your official transition to becoming a leader," he said. "Many of you will have a subordinate effective tomorrow, and many may not, but the reality will one day supervise," the Chief said.

Then he asked the new graduates "What kind of a supervisor will you become?"

In answering that important question, the Chief encouraged the future leaders to properly meet and sponsor Airmen, to provide training and maintain open communication to foster professional development, and ensure their Airmen feel a part of the Air Force family.

And the Air Force family is a concept close to the Chief's heart. He and his wife, a retired master sergeant, have three children in the Air Force and will soon have a fourth child serving. He explained how his expectations of their supervisors translate to the expectation of the ALS graduates' Airmen and that of their families:

"Of our three kids serving, one is a senior airman, one a non-commissioned officer and one is an officer...and in many cases, it was an ALS graduate who once supervised them, trained them, led them or supported them, so I submit to you that tonight is a big deal and I put my own children in your hands. Now, I ask again--truly--do you really know how important you are?"

He then challenged the Airmen: "Do you feel that you are that important, or capable, of supervising the Command Chief's children? Or for that fact, anyone's child? Not only are we responsible for putting bombs on target, we are also responsible for bringing those loved ones home, safe and sound."

Our most important responsibility as supervisors is taking care of our Airmen. When I worked on the flightline, we were so busy we would sometimes lose sight of this. All of us have been there--we stay busy fulfilling our inspections, deployments, exercises, temporary duty assignments, computer-based training, and numerous other things. But are these really excuses for us to not know our subordinates?

Airmen notice when their supervisors care about them. They remember when their commander visited them at the First-Term Airman Center or Airman Leadership School, or when their supervisor checked the quality of their dorm or helped resolve a housing issue. They remember that pat on the back for a job well done.

Every Monday morning, when I arrive on duty, Chief Johnson asks how my weekend was, how my family is doing, and I ask him the same. Do you do this with your Airmen? Do you know about their lifestyles, their habits, their families? Being a supervisor not only gives you the power to empower and enable Airmen on duty, but also off duty.

I ask you to get to know your Airmen, your non-commissioned officers, your senior non-commissioned officers, and other members of your team. Know their lives, know how to recognize if there is a problem or a change...which goes hand in hand with the Wingman concept. The time you invest will pay off for our Air Force and our Airmen.

I challenge you to make a difference.